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A Mirror of Shalott 


The Light Invisible 

The King's Achievement 

By What Authority ? 

The Sentimentalists 

Richard Raynal, Solitary 

The Queen's Tragedy 

A Book of the Love of Jesus 

A Mirror of Shalott 

Composed of Talcs told at a Symposium 


Robert Hugh Benson 

Author of 

"The Light Invisible," "By What Authority? 
"The Sentimentalists," etc. 

Primus est deorum cultus dfos credere. 

I . . And moving through a mirror clear 
That hangs before her all the year 
Shade w of the world appear . . . 

Thi Lady of Shalott. 

NO. 1 AMEN CORNER, E.C * * 1912 

"OCT - 5 1943 


AND NEW YORK - - 1912 



PROLOGUE ..... 1 



in. FATHER BRENT'S TALE. . . 53 





viii. FATHER MARTIN'S TALE . . .171 

ix. MR. BOSANQUET'S TALE . . 191 



xn. FATHER STEIN'S TALE . . .253 

xin. MR. PERCIVAL'S TALE . . . 265 


Most of the Stories in this volume have 
already appeared in the Ecclesiastical 
Review; one of them in the Catholic 
Fireside. They are printed here by the 
kind permission of the Editors. 

R. H. B. 


MAINTAIN," said Monsignor with a brisk 
air of aggressiveness and holding his pipe 
a moment from his mouth, " I maintain 
that agnosticism is the only reasonable position 
in these matters. Your common agnostic is no 
agnostic at all ; he is the most dogmatic of 
sectarians. He declares that such things do 
not happen, or that they can be explained 
always on a materialistic basis. Now your 

Catholic " 

Father Bianchi bristled, and rolled his black 
eyes fiercely. If he had had a moustache he 
would have twirled it. 

We were sitting in the upstairs sala of the 
presbytery attached to the Canadian Church of 
S. Filippo in Rome. It had been a large comfort- 
less room, stone-floored, stone-walled and plaster- 
ceilinged, but it had been made possible by 
numerous rugs, a number of armchairs and an 
English fireplace. Above, in the cold plaster, 
dingy flesh-coloured gods and nymphs attempted 
to lounge on cotton clouds with studied ease, 


looking down dispiritedly upon seven priests and 
myself, a layman, who sat in a shallow semi- 
circle round the red logs. In '71 the house had 
fallen into secular hands, whence issued the gods 
and nymphs, but in '97 the Church had come by 
her own again, and had not yet banished Olympus. 
There was no need to annihilate the conquered. 

In the centre sat the Father Rector, a placid 
old man, and round about him were the rest of 
us Monsignor Maxwell, a French priest, an 
English, an Italian, a Canadian, a German and 
myself. This was five years ago. I do not know 
where these people are now; one I think is in 
heaven, two I should suppose in purgatory, four 
on earth. In spite of my feelings towards Padre 
Bianchi, I should assign him to purgatory. He 
made a good death two years later in the Naples 

We had begun at supper by discussing modern 
miracles. The second nocturn had furnished the 
text to the mouth of Monsignor, and we had 
passed on by natural channels to levitation, table- 
turning, family curses, ghosts and banshees. The 
Italian was sceptical and scornful. Such things 
in his opinion did not take place ; he excepted 
only the incidents recorded in the lives of the 
saints. I did not mind his scepticism (that, after 


all, injures no one but the sceptic) ; but scorn 
and contumely is another matter, and I was glad 
that Canon Maxwell had taken him in hand, for 
that priest has a shrewd and acrid tongue, and 
wears purple, besides, round his person and on his 
buttons, so he speaks with authority. 

" You have some tale then, no doubt, 
Monsignor ? " sneered the Italian. 

The Englishman smiled with tight lips. 

" Every one has," he said briefly. " Even 
you, Padre Bianchi, if you will but tell it." 

The other shook his head indulgently. 

" I will swear," he said, " that none here has 
such a tale at first-hand." 

It was Father Meuron's turn to bristle. 

" But yes I " he exclaimed. 

Canon Maxwell drew on his pipe a moment or 
two and regarded the fire. 

" I have a proposition to make," he said. 
" Father Bianchi is right. I have one tale, and 
Father Meuron has another. With the Father 
Rector's permission we will tell our tales, one each 
night. On Sunday two or three of us are supping 
at the French College, so that shall be holiday, 
and by Monday night these other gentlemen will, 
no doubt, have remembered experiences even 
Father Bianchi, I believe. And Mr. Benson 


shall write them down, if he wishes to, and make 
an honest penny or two if he can get any 
publisher to take the book." 

I hastened to express my approval of the 

The Father Rector moved in his chair. 

" That will be very amusing, Monsignor. I 
am entirely in favour of it, though I doubt my 
own capacity. I propose that Canon Maxwell 
takes the chair." 

" Then I understand that all will contribute 
one story," said Monsignor briskly, " on those 
terms " 

There was a chorus of assent. 

" One moment, Monsignor," interrupted Father 
Brent. " Would it not be worth while to have 
a short discussion first as to the whole affair ? 
I must confess that my own ideas are not clear." 

" Well," said Monsignor shortly, " on what 
point ? " 

The younger priest mused a moment. 

" It is like this," he said. " Half at least of 
the stories one hears have no point no reason. 
Take the ordinary haunted house tale, or the 
appearances at the time of death. Now what 
is the good of all that ? They tell us nothing ; 
they don't generally ask for prayers. It is just 


a white woman wringing her hands, or a groaning, 
or something. At the best one only finds a 
skeleton behind the panelling. Now my story, if 
I tell it, has absolutely no point at all." 

" No point ! " said Monsignor ; " you mean 
that you don't understand the point, or that no 
one does ? Is that it ? " 

" Well, yes ; but there is more too. How do 
you square these things with purgatory ? How 
can spirits go wandering about, and be so futile 
at the end of it too ? Then why is everything 
so vague ? Why don't they give us a hint I'm not 
wanting precise information but a kind of hint 
of the way things go ? Then the whole thing is 
mixed up with such childish nonsense. Look 
at the spiritualists, and the tambourine business, 
and table-rapping. Either those things are true, 
even if they're diabolical and in that case people 
in the spiritual world seem considerably sillier 
even than people in this or they're not true ; 
and in that case the whole thing is so fraudulent 
that it seems useless to inquire. Do you see my 
point ? " 

" I see about twenty," said Monsignor. " And 

'it would take all night to answer them. But let 

me take two. Firstly, I am entirely willing to 

allow that half the stories one hears are fraudulent 


or hysterical ; I'm quite ready to allow that. 
But it seems to me that there remain a good many 
others ; and if one doesn't accept those to some 
extent, I don't know what becomes of the value 
of human evidence. Now one of your points, I 
take it, is that even these seem generally quite 
pointless and useless ? Is that it ? " 

" More or less," said Father Brent. 

" Well, first, I would say this. It seems 
perfectly clear that these other stories aren't sent 
to help our faith, or anything like that. I don't 
believe that for one instant. We have got all we 
need in the Catholic Church, and the moral wit- 
ness, and the rest. But what I don't understand 
in your position is this What earthly right have 
you got to think that they're sent just for your 
benefit ? " 

The other demurred. 

" I don't," he said. " But I suppose they're 
sent for somebody's benefit." 

" Somebody still on earth, you mean ? " 

" Well yes." 

Monsignor leaned forward. 

" My dear Father, how very provincial you 
are if I may say so ! Here is this exceedingly 
small earth, certainly with a very fair number 
of people living on it but absolutely a mere 


fraction of the number of intelligences that are in 
existence. And all about us since we must use 
that phrase is a spiritual world, compared with 
which the present generation is as a family of 
ants in the middle of London. Things happen 
this spiritual world is crammed full of energy and 
movement and affairs. . . . We know practically 
nothing of it all, except those few main principles 
which are called the Catholic Faith nothing else. 
What conceivable right have we to demand that 
the little glimpses that we seem to get sometimes 
of the spiritual world are given us for our benefit 
or information ? " 

" Then why are they given ? " 

Monsignor made a disdainful sound with closed 

" My dear Father, a boy drops a piece of orange 
peel into the middle of the ants* nest one day. 
The ants summon a council at once and sit on it. 
They discuss the lesson that is to be learned from 
the orange peel : they come to the conclusion 
that Buckingham Palace must be built entirely 
of orange peel, and that the reason why it was 
sent to them was that they were to learn that 
great and important lesson." 

Father Brent sat up suddenly. 

" My dear Monsignor, you seem to me to strike 


at the root of revelation. If we aren't to deduce 
things from supernatural incidents, why should 
we believe in our religion ? " 

Monsignor lifted a hand. 

" Next day there is slid into the ants' nest a 
box divided into compartments, containing 
exactly that which the ants need for the winter, 
food and so forth. The ants hold another 
parliament. Two-thirds of them who have deter- 
mined in the last hour or two to reject the Buck- 
ingham-Palace-orange-peel theory, reject this too. 
All is fortuitous, they say. The orange peel 
was ; therefore the box is ! " 

Father Brent relapsed, smiling. 

" That is all right," he said ; " I was a fool." 

" One-third," continued the Canon severely, 
"came to the not unreasonable conclusion that 
a box which shows such evident signs of intelli- 
gence, and of knowledge and care for their cir- 
cumstances, proceeds from an Intelligence which 
wishes them well. But there is a further schism. 
Half of those who accept revelation remain agnos- 
tic about most other things, and say frankly that 
they don't know especially as regards the orange 
peel. The other half rages on about the orange 
peel ; some are inclined to think that there was no 
orange peel it was no more than an hallucination. 


Others think that there is some remarkable 
lesson to be learnt from it, and these differ vio- 
lently as to what the lesson is. Others, again, 
regard it unintelligently and say to one another, 
* Look. A piece of orange peel ! How very 
beautiful and important.' ' 

(I laughed softly to myself. Monsignor spoke 
with such earnestness. I would like him to be 
my advocate if I ever get into trouble.) 

" And, my dear Father," he went on, u I take 
up the first position of those who accept revela- 
tion, and I acknowledge the fact of the orange 
peel ; but really nothing more. My religion 
teaches me that there is a spiritual world of in- 
definite size, and that things not only may, but 
must, go on there which have nothing particular 
to do with me. Every now and then I get a 
glimpse of some of these things an orange pip, 
at the very least. But I don't immediately 
demand an explanation. It probably isn't deli- 
berately meant for me at all. It has something 
to do with affairs of which I know nothing, and 
which manage to get on quite well without me." 

Father Brent, still smiling, protested once 

" Very ingenious, Monsignor ; but then why 
does it happen to happen to you ? " 


" I have not the slightest idea, any more than 
I have the slightest idea why Providence made 
me break a tooth this morning. I accept the 
fact ; I believe that somehow it works into the 
scheme. But I do not for that reason claim to 
understand it. ... And as for purgatory well, 
I ask you, What in the world do we know about 
purgatory except that there is such a thing, and 
that the souls of the faithful there detained are 
assisted by our suffrages ? What conceivable 
possibility is there that we should understand the 
details of its management ? My dear Father, no 
one in this world has a greater respect for, or 
confidence in, dogmatic theology than myself ; 
in fact, I may say that it is the only thing which 
I do have confidence in. But I respect the limits 
which it itself has laid down." 

" Then you are an agnostic as regards 
everything but the faith ? " 

" Certainly I am. Well, possibly except mathe- 
matics, too, and so is any wise man. I have my 
ideas, of course, and I make guesses sometimes ; 
but I really do not think that they have any 

There was silence a moment. 

" Then there is this, too," he continued. " It 
really is important to remember that the spiritual 


world exists in another mode from that in which 
the material world exists. That is where the 
ant-simile breaks down. It is more as if an ant 
went to the Royal Academy. ... Of course in 
the faith we have an adequate and guaranteed 
translation of the supernatural into the natural, 
and vice versa ; and in these ghost stories, or 
whatever we call them, we have a certain sort of 
translation too. The Real Thing, whatever it is, 
expresses itself in material terms, more or less. 
But in these we have no sort of guarantee that 
the translation is adequate, or that we are ade- 
quate to understand it. We can try, of course ; 
but we really don't know. Therefore it seems 
to me that in all ghost stories the best thing is 
to hear it, to satisfy ourselves that the evidence 
is good or bad, and then to hold our tongues. 
We don't want elaborate commentaries on what 
may be, after all, an utterly corrupt text." 

" But some of them do support the faith," 
put in Father Brent. 

" So much the better then. But it is much 
safer not to lean your weight on them. You 
never can tell. Now with the faith you can." 

There was another silence. 

Then the Rector stood up smiling. 

" Night prayers, Reverend Fathers," he said. 


Monsignor Maxwell's Tale 


Monsignor Maxwell's Tale 

I WAS still thinking over the Canon's 
remarks as I came up into the sala on the 
following evening. They seemed to me 
eminently sensible ; or, in other words, they 
exactly represented what I had always held 
myself, though I had never so expressed them 
even to my own mind. 

I felt some interest, therefore, in the question 
as to the class to which Monsignor's own story 
would be found to belong whether to that which 
contains merely a series of phenomena, or to that 
which appeared to corroborate the Christian 

The rest of the company, with two or three 
strangers, were already in their places when I 
arrived ; and Monsignor was enthroned in the 
centre chair, staring with a preoccupied look at 
the blazing fire. The Rector was on his right. 

The conversation died away at last ; there was 
a shifting of attitudes. Then the Canon looked 
at his watch, bending his sleek grey head sideways. 



" We have twenty minutes," he said in his terse 
way. Then he crossed his buckled feet and began 
without any preliminary comment. 

" This happened to me in England. Naturally 
I shall not mention where it took place, nor how 
long ago. 

" I knew a man, a Catholic from birth, of 
a remarkable faith and piety. He had tried 
his vocation in religion again and again, for he 
seemed a born religious ; but his health had 
always broken down, and he had finally married. 
He had been told by his director that his vocation 
was evidently to live in the world, and as a lay- 
man. Whether I agree or disagree with the 
latter part of his advice is not to the point, but 
there was no question as to the former part of it. 
The man's health simply could not stand it. But 
he led a most mortified and interior life with his 
wife in his London house, with a servant or two to 
look after them, and was present daily at mass at 
the church that I served then. His wife, too, was a 
very exceptional woman, utterly devoted to her 
husband, and I may say that I never paid them a 
visit without being very much the better for it. 

" Now he had a brother, a solicitor in a town 
in the north, also a Catholic, of course, 


never saw, but who enters very materially into 
the story. We will call the brothers, if you please, 
Mr. James and Mr. Herbert, though I need not 
say that these were not their names. 

" One morning after mass Mr. James came to 
me in the sacristy and said he wished to have a 
word with me, so I took him through into the 
presbytery and up into my own room. I could 
see that something was very much the matter 
with him. 

" He took a letter out and gave it me to read. 
It was from his brother Mr. Herbert and 
contained very sad news indeed nothing else, in 
fact, than an announcement of his intention to 
secede from the Church. There was a story of 
a marriage difficulty, too, as there so often is in 
such cases. He had fallen in love with a woman 
of strong agnostic convictions, and nothing would 
induce her to marry him unless he conformed to 
her religion such as it was. But, to do Mr. 
Herbert justice, I could see that there was a real 
loss of faith as well. There were two or three 
sheets filled with arguments that I could see 
were real to the man or statements, perhaps, 
rather than arguments against the Incarnation 
and the inspiration of the Scriptures, and the 
authority of the Church, and so on, and I must 


confess that they were not mere clap-trap. The 
woman was plainly capable and shrewd and had 
been talking to him, and both his heart and his 
head were seriously entangled. 

" Well, I handed the letter back to Mr. James, 
and said what I could, recommended a book or 
two, promised to get him prayers, and so on, 
but the man waved it aside. 

" ' Yes, yes, Father,' he said, * I know, and 1 
thank you, but I must do more than that. You 
don't know what this means to me. I got the 
letter yesterday at midday, and I may say that 
I have done nothing but pray since, and this 
morning at mass I saw a light at least, I think 
so, and I want your advice.' 

" He was terribly excited, his eyes were bright, 
and the lines in his face deeper than I had ever 
seen them, (for he was only just entering middle 
age,) and the papers shook in his hands. I did 
my best to quiet him, but it was no good. All 
his tranquillity, which had been one of his most 
striking virtues, was gone, and I could see that 
his whole being was rent. 

" ' You don't know what this means to me, 
he said again. ' There is only one thing to be 
done. I must offer myself for him.' 

" Well, I didn't understand him at first, but 


, | 

iy I 


we talked a little, and at last I found that the 
idea of mystical substitution had seized fflff his 
minj. jle was persuaded that he must make 
an offering of himself to God, and ask to be 
allowed to bear the temptation instead of his 
brother. Of course we know that that is one 
the claims of the contemplative, but, to tell the 
truth, I had never come across it before in my 
own experience. 

" Well, he didn't want my opinion upon the 
doctrine, and, indeed, I was glad he didn't, for I 
knew nothing about it myself, but he wanted to 
know if I thought him justified in running the 
risk for he seemed to take it as a matter of 
course that I believed it. 

" * Am I strong enough, Father ? ' he asked. 
* Can I bear it ? I cannot imagine my losing 
my faith,' and a smile just flickered on his mouth 
and vanished again in trembling, * but but God 
knows how weak I am.' 

" Well, I reassured him on that point, at any 
rate, and told him that, so far as his faith was 
concerned, I considered it robust enough. To 
tell the truth, I suppose I was a little careless, 

because because " and Monsignor shifted a 

little in his chair and looked round. " Well, it 
was all so bewildering. 


" Well, he soon went after that, saying that he 
would tell his wife, and imploring me to get 
prayers for him in his struggle, and I was left 
alone to think it over. 

" For the next day or two he appeared at mass 
as usual, and just waited for me one morning to 
tell me that he had made the offering of himself 
before God. Then I had to go into the country 
on some business or other, and was away from 
Monday to Saturday. 

" Now to tell the truth I did not think of him 
very much ; I was harassed and bothered myself, 
about my business, and scarcely did more than 
just mention his name at the altar, and I am 
ashamed to say I completely forgot to get prayers 
elsewhere for his brother or himself, and I was 
entirely unprepared for what was waiting for me 
when I reached home on the Saturday evening." 

Monsignor paused a moment or two. He was 
evidently speaking with a certain difficulty. His 
brisk business-like way of talking had just a tinge 
of feeling in it which it generally lacked, and he 
moved in his chair now and then with something 
almost like nervousness. The other priests were 
silent. The young Englishman was bending for- 
ward in the firelight with his chin on his hands, 
and old Father Stein had sat back in his chair 


very quiet and was shading his face from the 

" My housekeeper heard my key in the lock of 
the front door," went on Canon Maxwell, " and 
was waiting for me in the hall. She told me that 
Mr. James* wife had sent round four times for me 
that afternoon, saying she must have me at once 
on my return, and that any delay might be fatal. 
But it was not a case for the Last Sacraments, 
apparently. I was astonished by such phrases, 
but they were evidently word for word what she 
had said, for my housekeeper apologized for 
repeating them. 

" ' There is something terribly the matter, 
Father,' she said ; * the last time the servant was 
crying, and said that her master was out of his 

" Well, I ran into church and told my penitents 
there that they must wait, or go to my colleague, 
and that I had had a sick-call and did not know 
how long I should be away ; and then I ran 
straight out of the church, and down to the house 
which was three or four streets off. (You must 
forgive my telling you this story with so many 
details, but somehow it is the only way I can do 
it ; it is all as vivid and clear as if it had 
happened last week. . . .) 


" It was a November evening ; all the lamps 
were lit as I passed out of the thoroughfare down 
the side-road where his house was ; here the 
pavements were empty, and I ran again as fast as 
I could down the street and up the steps that led 
to his front door. Even as I stood there out of 
breath, I knew that something was seriously 

" Down in the kitchen below, as I could see 
plainly through the lighted windows, the Irish 
cook had been kneeling with her face hidden on 
the table ; and she was now staring up at me 
with her eyes red and her hair disordered, as the 
peal of the bell died away. Then she was out in 
the area almost screaming 

" c Oh, God bless you, Father ! ' and then the 
door opened, and I was in the hall. 

" ' Where is he ? ' I asked the maid, all panting 
with my run, and she told me, In his study, 
and then I was up at the door in a moment, 
knocking, and then, without waiting, I went in. 

" It was one of those little back-rooms that 
you see sometimes in London houses, just at the 
top of the stairs that lead down to the servants' 
quarters. There was a little garden at the back 
of the house and a side street beyond that. The 
curtains over the window had not been drawn, 


and a lamp shone into the room from the lane 
outside. But I did not understand that at the 
time. I was only aware that the room was dark, 
except for a pale light that lay across the floor 
and wall and on the door that I closed behind me. 

" But the horror of the room was beyond 

anything that 1 have ever felt. It it " 

Monsignor hesitated. " It was almost physical, 
and yet I knew it was not, but it was the sense of 
some extraordinary influence, spiritual and on the 

point of " he stopped again. " You must for* 

give me," he said, " but I can put it in no way but 
this it seemed on the point of expressing itself 
visibly or tangibly ; at any rate I felt my hair 
rise slowly as I stood there, and then I leaned > 
back against the door and groped for the handle." 1 

Old Father Stein nodded gravely. 

" I know, I know," he said in his heavy voice ; 
" it was so with me at Benares." 

" It was so dark at first," went on Monsignor, 
" that I could see nothing but the outlines of the 
furniture. There was the writing table and so 
on immediately on my left, the fireplace beyond 
it in the left-hand wall ; a tall bureau beside the 
window, opposite me. Then I felt my hand 
seized and gripped in the dark, and I looked 
down, horribly startled, and saw that his wife had 


been kneeling at his prie-dieu on the right, and 
had turned and clutched my hand, as she saw me 
in the light of the street-lamp ; but she said 
nothing, and her silence was the worst of all. 
f "I looked again round the room and then sud- 
denly gasped, and I must confess, nearly screamed, 

>ecause, quite close to me, the man sat and stared 
up at me. I had been confused as I came in, 
and I believe now that I only had not seen him, 
because I had taken the dark outline of his body, 
and the whiteness of his face, to be a little side- 

:able with papers upon it, that often stood by his 

" Well, however that was, here was the man, 
quite close to me, sitting bolt upright with the 
lamplight falling on that 4 ea( Uy face, all lined as 
it was, with patches of dark beneath those awful 
bright eyes." 

Monsignor stopped again, and I could see that 
the hand on his chair-arm twitched sharply once 
or twice. 

Well, two or three times, I should think, I 
opened my mouth to speak, and I have never 
known before or since what it was, literally, not 

o be able to do it. It was as if a hand gripped 
y throat each time. I suppose it was a kind 
of hysterical contraction of the muscles. I 


understood then why the wife could not speak. 
The only emotion I was conscious of was an insane 
desire to get out of the room and the house, awayl 
from that terrifying silence and oppressiveness || 
and, under God, I believe that the one thing 
that kept me there was that frightful grip on my 
fingers, that tightened, as if the wife read my 
thoughts, even as the desire surged up. 

" I stood there, I suppose, half a minute more 
before I moved or spoke, and then I made a little { 
motion, and drew my fingers out of hers, and I 
made the sign of the cross, and even then I dared \ 
not speak. But the face remained still in that 
tense quietness,. and the bright sunken eyes never 
flinched or stirred. 

" Then I dropped on my knees ; and at last, 
with really an extraordinary effort, as if I was 
breaking something, I managed to speak and say\ 
a prayer or two, the Our Father and the Hail\ 
Mary I could remember nothing else. Then 1 1 
glanced at him quickly, and he had not stirred, 
but was watching me with a kind of bitter indiffer- 
ence that is all I can say of it. I went on with 
the creed, finished it, said Amen, and then one 
loud harsh bark of laughter broke from 
and and I could swear that something 


A sharp exclamation broke from Father Brent, 
and a kind of sigh from the French priest, as 
Monsignor suddenly sat up and struck his hand 
on his knee at his last word, and my own heart 
leapt and stood still, while my nerves jangled 
like struck wires. 

" There, there," said the Rector, " our nerves 
are out of order ; be kind to us, Monsignor." 

He shook his head. 

"But I must tell you," he said, "though I 
hardly know what words to use. . . . This other 
laughter was not like his. I could not swear 
that that there was a vibration of sound. It 
might have been interior, but it was there ; it 
was objective and external to me ... only I was 
absolutely convinced that there was laughter, 
neither mine, nor the man's, nor his wife's. 
There ; that is all I can say of it." 

He paused a moment. 

" Well," he went on, " we got him upstairs at 
last, and on his bed. I tell you it was a very odd 
relief to get out of the room downstairs. He 
had not slept, his wife whispered to me as we 
went up, for four nights, not since the Monday 
in fact, and had scarcely eaten either. There 
was no time to hear more, for he turned round 
as he walked up and looked at us as we held him, 


and there was no more talking, with that face 
before us. And there we sat beside him in his 
bedroom he lay quiet with closed eyes and I 
did not dare to leave him till three or four in the 
morning, when I was nearly dead with weariness. 
His wife made me go then, and promised to send 
again if there was any change. 

" Well, during the sung mass, at which I was 
not officiating, the message came, and I was back 
at his house directly. There had been a change ;\ 
he was now willing to talk. He looked ghastly, \j 
but his wife told me that she thought he hadj 
slept an hour or two, after I had left. 

" Well, we talked, and I found that the man's J 
faith wasjjone, or, perhaps it is safer to say, com- 
pletely obscured. I scarcely know how to express I 
it, but itwas as if he had practically no conception 
of what I was talking about. 

* I believed it once,' he said, * yes, I am sure 
I did, but I can't imagine why or how.' 

" ' Then what is all this trouble of mind about ? ' 
I asked. 

"'Why,' he said, * why ; if it is not true, 
what is left ? ' 

" I didn't quite see what he meant, and asked 

" ' You,' he said, and just touched me with his 


finger, c you and I,' and he touched himself, 

' and and all this,' and he tapped the table, 

' and all that,' and he flung his arm out towards 

the window and the chimney pots and the bustling 

i thoroughfare. ' All of it all of it what does 

i it all mean, what is the good of it ? ' 

" It was a piteous thing to see his face, the 
blackness and the misery of his despair at an 
empty meaningless world and a self that could 
do nothing but writhe and cry in the dark. 

" You see the whole thing for him stood or fell 
by God, lived and moved in Him ; now God was 
gone, and what was left ? 

" Well, of course I reminded him of his offering 
of himself to God for his brother. God had 
accepted it, I told him ; and he just laughed 
miserably in my face. 

" ' Do you think Herbert suffered like this ? ' 
he asked. 

" Well, I was tired and bewildered, and this 
seemed to me an answer. Of course you all see 
the explanation." 

1" The other suffered less because his faith was 
less," put in Father Brent instantly. 

" Exactly," said Monsignor, " well, I am 
ashamed to say I didn't see that, at least not 
clearly enough to put it to him ; but I did point 


out that it was of the very essence of his contract 
that he should suffer severely in the very manner 
in which he was suffering, and that the coinci- 
dence was remarkable, and, further, that the 
fact that he was in such distress, shewed that God 
was something to him after all. I don't know 
even then that I accepted the whole thing as 
being quite real. But what else could I say ? ... 
Well he smiled again at that. 

" ' Have you never regretted a happy dream ? ' 
he said. 

" Well, I am wearying you," said Monsignor, 
looking at his watch, " but I am just at the end* 
I went to that man every day for, I suppose, twcj 
or three hours for five or six weeks, and it seemecm 
practically useless. I had never realized before' 
so completely that faith was a gift which can be 
given or withdrawn ; that it is something 
infused into us, not produced by us. Finally the 
man died of congestion of the brain." 

" Good Lord ! " said a voice. 

" Yes," said Canon Maxwell, blowing down his 
pipe, " those those were my sentiments." 

" Monsignor ! Do you mean he died without 
faith ? " 

"Father Jenks, I gave him the sacraments. I 
He asked for them. I did not press too many\\ 


questions ; I thought it best to leave well 

" And the brother ? " 

" Oh ! the brother Mr. Herbert was at the 
funeral, and informed me that the marriage was 
broken off, and I never heard of his apostacy. 
And there was one other person who contributed 
to the interest of the whole affair, and that was 
/the wife." 

" What happened to her ? " 

(" She became a Poor Clare. She told me that 
self-immolation was the only possible act for her 
after what she had seen and known." 

There was a long silence. 

" Well, well, well," said Father Bianchi. 


Father Meuron's Tale 


Father Meuron's Tale 

J7ATHER MEURON was very voluble at 

r supper on the Saturday. He exclaimed ; 

he threw out his hands ; his bright black 

eyes shone above his rosy cheeks ; and his hair 

appeared to stand more on end than I had ever 

known it. 

He sat at the farther side of the horse-shoe 
table from myself, and I was able to remark on 
his gaiety to the English priest who sat beside 
me, without fear of being overheard. 

Father Brent smiled. 

44 He is drunk with la gloire," he said. 44 He 
is to tell the story to-night." 

This explained everything. 

I did not look forward, however, to his recital. 
I was confident that it would be full of tinsel and 
swooning maidens who ended their days in con- 
vents under Father Meuron's spiritual direction ; 
and when he came upstairs I found a shadowy 
corner, a little back from the semi-circle, where 
I could fall asleep, if I wished, without provoking 


In fact I was totally unprepared for the 
character of his narrative. 

When we had all taken our places and Mon- 
signor's pipe was properly alight, and himself at 
full length in his deck-chair, the Frenchman 
began. He told his story in his own language ; 
but I am venturing to render it in English as 
nearly as I am able. 

" My contribution to the histories," he began, 
seated in his upright arm-chair in the centre of 
the circle, a little turned away from me " My 
contribution to the histories which these good 
priests are to recite, is an affair of exorcism. 
That is a matter with which we who live in Europe 
are not familiar in these days. It would seem, 
I suppose, that grace has a certain power, accumu- 
lating through the centuries, of saturating even 
physical objects with its force. However men 
may rebel, yet the sacrifices offered and the 
prayers poured out have a faculty of holding 
Satan in check, and preventing his more formid- 
able manifestations. Even in my own poor 
country at this hour, in spite of widespread apos- 
tacy, in spite even of the deliberate worship of 
Satan, yet grace is in the air ; and it is seldom, 
indeed, that a priest has to deal with a case of 



possession. In your respectable England, too, 
it is the same ; the simple piety of Protestants 
has kept alive to some extent the force of the 
Gospel. Here in this country it is somewhat 
different. The old powers have survived the 
Christian assault, and while they cannot live in 
holy Rome, there are corners where they do so." 

From my place I saw Padre Bianchi turn a 
furtive eye upon the speaker, and I thought I 
read in it an unwilling assent. 

" However," went on the Frenchman, with a 
superb dismissory gesture, " my recital does not 
concern this continent, but the little island of 
La Souffridre. There circumstances are other 
than here. It was a stronghold of darkness when, 
I was there in '19. Grace, while laying hold oft 
men's hearts, had not yet penetrated the lower i 
creation. Do you understand me ? There were 
many holy persons whom I knew, who frequented 
the Sacraments and lived devoutly, but there 
were many of another manner. The ancient} 
rites survived secretly amongst the negroes, and; 
darkness how shall I say it ? dimness made J 
itself visible. 

" However, to our history " 

The priest resettled himself in his chair and 
laid his fingers together like precious instruments. 


He was enjoying himself vastly, and I could see 
that he was preparing himself for a revelation. 
" It was in '91," he repeated, " that I went 
there with another of our Fathers to the mission- 
house. I will not trouble you, gentlemen, with 
recounting the tale of our arrival, nor of the months 
that followed it, except perhaps to tell you that 
I was astonished by much that I saw. Never 
until that time had I seen the power of the Sacra- 
Jments so evident. In civilized lands, as I have 
(suggested to you, the air is charged with grace. 
Each is no more than a wave in the deep sea. He 
who is without God's favour is not without His 
grace at each breath he draws. There are 
churches, religious, pious persons about him ; 
there are centuries of prayers behind him. The 
very buildings he enters, as M. Huysmans has 
explained to us, are browned by prayer. Though 
a wicked child, he is yet in his Father's house : 
and the return from death to life is not such a 
crossing of the abyss, after all. But there in 
La Souffriere all is either divine or satanic, black 
!* or white, Christian or devilish. One stands as it 
were on the sea shore to watch the breakers of 
grace ; and each is a miracle. I tell you I have 
seen holy catechumens foam at the mouth and 
roll their eyes in pain, as the saving water fell 


on them, and that which was within went out. | 
As the Gospel relates, * Spiritus conturbavit \ 
ilium : et elisus in tenant, volutabatur spumans.' " 4 
Father Meuron paused again. 

I was interested to hear this corroboration of 
evidence that had come before me on other 
occasions. More than one missionary had told 
me the same thing ; and I had found in their 
tales a parallel to those related by the first 
preachers of the Christian religion in the early 
days of the Church. 

" I was incredulous at first," continued the 
priest, " until I saw these things for myself. An 
old father of our mission rebuked me for it. 
* You are an ignorant fellow,' he said, * your airs 
are still of the seminary.' And what he said was 
just, my friends. 

" On one Monday morning as we met for our 
council, I could see that this old priest had some- 
thing to say. M. Lasserre was his name. He 
kept very silent until the little businesses had 
been accomplished, and then he turned to the 
Father Rector. 

" * Monseigneur has written,' he said, * and 
given me the necessary permission for the matter 
you know, my father. And he bids me take 


another priest with me . I ask that Father Meuron 
may accompany me. He needs a lesson, this 
zealous young missionary.' 

" The Father Rector smiled at me, as I sat 
astonished, and nodded at Father Lasserre to 
give permission. 

" ' Father Lasserre will explain all to you,' he 
said, as he stood up for the prayer. 

" The good priest explained all to me as the 
Father Rector had directed. 

" It appeared that there was a matter of exorcism 
on hand. A woman who lived with her mother 
and husband had been afflicted by the devil, 
Father Lasserre said. She was a catechumen, 
and had been devout for several months and all 
seemed well, until this this assault had been 
made on her soul. Father Lasserre had visited 
the woman and examined her, and had made 
his report to the bishop, asking permission to 
exorcise the creature, and it was this permission 
that had been sent on that morning. 

" I did not venture to tell the priest that he 
was mistaken and that the affair was one of 
epilepsy. I had studied a little in books for my 
medical training, and all that I heard now seemed 
to confirm me in the diagnosis. There were the 
symptoms, easy to read. What would you 


have ? " the priest again made bis little gesture 
" I knew more in my youth than all the Fathers 
of the Church. Their affairs of devils were 
nothing but an affection of the brain, dreams 
and fancies ! And if the exorcisms had appeared 
to be of direct service to such folk, it was from 
the effect of the solemnity upon the mind. It 
was no more." 

He laughed with a fierce irony. 

" You know it all, gentlemen ! " 

I had lost all desire to sleep now. The French 
priest was more interesting than I had thought. 
His elaborateness seemed dissipated ; his voice 
trembled a little as he arraigned his own conceit, 
and I began to wonder how his change of mind 
had been wrought. 

" We set out that afternoon," he continued. 
" The woman lived on the farther side of the 
island, perhaps a couple of hours' travel, for it 
was rough going ; and as we went up over the 
path, Father Lasserre told me more. 

" It seemed that the woman blasphemed. 
(The subconscious self, said I to myself, as 
M. Charcot has explained. It is her old habit 
reasserting itself.) 

" She foamed and rolled her eyes. (An 
affection of the brain, said I.) 


" She feared holy water : they dared not throw 
it on her, her struggles were so fierce. (Because 
she has been taught to fear it, said I.) 

" And so the good father talked, eyeing me 
now and again ; and I smiled in my heart, know- 
ing that he was a simple old fellow who had not 
studied the new books. 

>" She was quieter after sunset, he told me, and 
ould take a little food then. Her fits came on 
tier for the most part at midday. And I smiled 
again at that. Why it should be so, I knew. 
The heat affected her. She would be quieter, 
science would tell us, when evening fell. If it 
were the power of Satan that held her, she would 
surely rage more in the darkness than in the light. 
The Scriptures tell us so. 

" I said something of this to Father Lasserre, 
as if it were a question, and he looked at me. 

" ' Perhaps, brother,' he said, ' she is more at 
ease in the darkness and fears the light, and 
that she is quieter therefore when the sun 

" Again I smiled to myself. What piety ! said 
I, and what foolishness ! 

" The house where the three lived stood apart 
from any others. It was an old shed into which 
they had moved a week before, for the neighbours 


could no longer bear the woman's screaming. 
And we came to it toward sunset. 

" It was a heavy evening, dull and thick, and 
as we pushed down the path I saw the smoking 
mountain high on the left hand between the 
tangled trees. There was a great silence round 
us, and no wind, and every leaf against the angry 
sky was as if cut of steel. 

" We saw the roof below us presently, and a 
little smoke escaped from a hole, for there was no 

" ' We will sit here a little, brother,' said my 
friend. * We will not enter till sunset.' 

" And he took out his Office book and began 
to say his Matins and Lauds, sitting on a fallen t 
tree trunk by the side of the path. 

" All was very silent about us. I suffered 
terrible distractions, for I was a young man and 
excited ; and though I knew it was no more than 
epilepsy that I was to see, yet epilepsy is not a 
good sight to regard. But I was finishing the 
first nocturn when I saw that Father Lasserre 
was looking off his book. 

" We were sitting thirty yards from the roof 
of the hut which was built in a scoop of the ground, 
so that the roof was level with the ground on 
which we sat. Below it was a little open space, 


flat, perhaps twenty yards across, and below 
that yet farther was the wood again, and far over 
that was the smoke of the village against the 
sea. There was the mouth of a well with a bucket 

f beside it ; and by this was standing a man, a 
negro, very upright, with a vessel in his hand. 
" This fellow turned as I looked, and saw us 
there, and he dropped the vessel, and I could see 
his white teeth. Father Lasserre stood up and 
laid his finger on his lips, nodded once or twice, 
pointed to the west where the sun was just above 
the horizon, and the fellow nodded to us again 
and stooped for his vessel. 

" He filled it from the bucket and went back 
into the house. 

" I looked at Father Lasserre, and he looked 
at me. 

' In five minutes,' he said. * That is the 
j husband. Did you not see his wounds ? ' 

" I had seen no more than his teeth, I said, and 
my friend nodded again and proceeded to finish 
'his nocturn." 

Again Father Meuron paused dramatically. 
His ruddy face seemed a little pale in the candle- 
light, although he had told us nothing yet that 
could account for his apparent horror. Plainly 
something was coming soon. 


The Rector leaned back to me and whispered 
behind his hand in reference to what the French- 
man had related a few minutes before, that no 
priest was allowed to use exorcism without the 
special leave of the bishop. I nodded and 
thanked him. 

Father Meuron flashed his eyes dreadfully round 
the circle, clasped his hands and continued : 

" When the sun showed only a red rim above 
the sea we went down to the house. The path 
ran on high ground to the roof, and then dipped 
down the edge of the cutting past the window to 
the front of the shed. 

" I looked through this window sideways as 
I went after Father Lasserre who was carrying 
his bag with the book and the holy water, but I 
could see nothing but the light of the fire. And 
there was no sound. That was terrible to me ! 

" The door was closed as we came to it, and as 
Father Lasserre lifted his hand to knock there was 
the howl of a beast from within. 

" He knocked and looked at me. 

' It is but epilepsy,* he said, and his lips 
wrinkled as he said it." 

The priest stopped again, and smiled ironically 
at us all. Then he clasped his hands beneath 
his chin, like a man in terror. 


" I will not tell you all that I saw," he went 
on, "when the candle was lighted and set on the 
table ; but only a little. You would not dream 
well, my friends as I did not that night. 

" But the woman sat in a corner by the 
fireplace, bound with cords by her arms to 
the back of the chair, and her feet to the legs 
of it. 

" Gentlemen, she was like no woman at all. 
The howl of a wolf came from her lips, but there 
were words in the howl. At first I could not 
understand, till she began in French and then 
I understood My God ! 

" The foam dripped from her mouth like water, 
and her eyes But there ! I began to shake 
when I saw them until the holy water was 
spilled on the floor, and I set it down on the table 
by the candle. There was a plate of meat on 
the table, roasted mutton, I think, and a loaf of 
bread beside it. Remember that, gentlemen ! 
That mutton and bread ! And as I stood there, 
I told myself, like making acts of faith, that it 
was but epilepsy, or at the most matlness. 

" My friends, it is probable that few of you 
know the form of exorcism. It is neither in the 
Ritual nor the Pontifical, and I cannot remember 
it all myself. But it began thus." 


The Frenchman sprang up and stood with his 
hack to the fire, with his face in shadow. 

" Father Lasserre was here where I stand, in 
his cotta and stole, and I beside him. There 
where my chair stands was the square table, as 
near as that, with the bread and meat and the 
holy water and the candle. Beyond the table 
was the woman ; her husband stood beside her 
on the left hand, and the old mother was there " 
he flung out a hand to the right " on the floor ! 
telling her beads and weeping but weeping ! 

" When the Father was ready and had said a 
word to the others, he signed to me to lift the 
holy water again she was quiet at the moment 
and then he sprinkled her. 

" As he lifted his hand she raised her eyes, 
and there was a look in them of terror, as if at a 
blow, and as the drops fell she leapt forward in 
the chair, and the chair leapt with her. Her 
husband was at her and dragged the chair back. 
But, my God ! it was terrible to see him, his teeth 
shone as if he smiled, but the tears ran down his 

" Then she moaned like a child in pain. It was 
as if the holy water burned her ; she lifted her 
face to her man as if she begged him to wipe off 
the drops. 


" And all the while I still told myself that it 
was the terror of her mind only at the holy water 
that it could not be that she was possessed by Satan 
it was but madness madness and epilepsy! 

" Father Lasserre went on with the prayers, 
and I said Amen, and there was a psalm Deus 
in nomine tuo salvum me fac and then came the 
first bidding to the unclean spirit to go out, in 
the name of the Mysteries of the Incarnation and 

" Gentlemen, I swear to you that something 
happened then, but I do not know what. A 
confusion fell on me and a kind of darkness. I 
saw nothing it was as if I were dead." 

The priest lifted a shaking hand to wipe off 
the sweat from his forehead. There was a 
profound silence in the room. I looked once at 
Monsignor and he was holding his pipe an inch 
off his mouth, and his lips were slack and open 
as he stared. 

" Then when I knew where I was, Father 
Lasserre was reading out of the Gospels ; how 
our Lord gave authority to His Church to cast 
out unclean spirits ; and all the while his voice 
never trembled." 

" And the woman ? " said a voice hoarsely 
from Father Brent's chair. 


" Ah ! the woman ! My God I I do not 
know. I did not look at her. I stared at the 
plate on the table ; but at least she was not 
crying out now. 

"When the Scripture was finished, Father 
Lasserre gave me the book. 

"'Bah! Father!' he said. * It is but 
epilepsy, is it not ? ' 

" Then he beckoned me, and I went with him 
holding the book till we were within a yard of 
the woman. But I could not hold the book still, 
it shook, it shook " 

Father Meuron thrust out his hand " It 
shook like that, gentlemen. 

" He took the book from me, sharply and 
angrily. ' Go back, sir,' he said, and he thrust 
the book into the husband's hand. 

" ' There/ he said. 

'* I went back behind the table and leaned on it. 

" Then Father Lasserre My God ! the cour- 
age of this man ! he set his hands on the woman's 
head. She writhed up her teeth to bite, but^xe 
was too strong for her, and then he cried out from 
the book the second bidding to the unclean spirit. 

" ' Ecce crucem Domini /Behold the Cross of 
the Lord ! Flee, ye adverse hosts ! The lion of 
the tribe of Judah hath prevailed ! ' 


" Gentlemen " the Frenchman flung out his 
hands " I who stand here tell you that some- 
thing happened God knows what I only know 
this, that as the woman cried out and scrambled 
with her feet on the floor, the flame of the candJe 
became smoke-coloured for one instant. I told 
myself it was the dust of her struggling and her 
foul breath. Yes, gentlemen, as you tell your- 
selves now. Bah ! it is but epilepsy, is it not so, 
sir ? " 

The old Rector leaned forward with a depre- 
cating hand, but the Frenchman glared and 
gesticulated ; there was a murmur from the room, 
and the old priest leaned back again and propped 
his head on his hand. 

" Then there was a prayer. I heard Or emus, 
but I did not dare to look at the woman. I fixed 
my eyes so, on the bread and meat : it was the 
one clean thing in that terrible room. I whis- 
pered to myself, * Bread and mutton, bread and 
mutton.' I thought of the refectory at home 
anything you understand me, gentlemen, 
anything familiar to quiet myself. 

" Then there was the third exorcism." 

I saw the Frenchman's hands rise and fall, 
clenched, and his teeth close on his lip to stay its 


trembling. He swallowed in his throat once or 

" Gentlemen, I swear to you by God Almighty 
that this was what I saw. I kept my eyes on the 
bread and meat. It lay there, beneath my eyes, 
and yet I saw too the good Father Lasserre lean 
forward to the woman again, and heard him begin, 
* Exorcizo U? . . . 

" And then this happened this happened . . . 

" The bread and the meat corrupted themselves 
to worms before my eyes " 

Father Meuron dashed forward, turned round, 
and dropped into his chair as the two English 
priests on either side sprang to their feet. 

In a few minutes he was able to tell us that 
all had ended well ; that the woman had been 
presently found in her right mind, after an 
incident or two that I will take leave to omit ; 
and that the apparent paroxysm of nature that 
had accompanied the words of the third exorcism 
had passed away as suddenly as it had come. 

Then we went to night-prayers and fortified 
ourselves against the dark. 


Father Brent's Tale 


Father Brent's Tale 

IT was universally voted on Monday that the 
Englishman should follow Father Meuron, 
and we looked with some satisfaction on 
his wholesome face and steady blue eyes, as he 
took up his tale after supper. 

" Mine is a very poor story," he began, " after 
the one we heard on Saturday, and, what is worse, 
there is no explanation that I have ever heard 
that seemed to me adequate. Perhaps some one 
will supply one this evening. I feel very much 
like the ant in London whom Monsignor has such 
sympathy with." 

He drew at his cigarette, smiling, and we settled 
ourselves down with looks of resolute science on 
our features. I at least was conscious of wishing 
to wear one. 

" After my ordination to the subdiaconate I 
was in England for the summer and went down 
to stay with a friend on the Fal, at the beginning 
of October. 



" My friend's house stood on a spot of land 
running out into the estuary ; there was a beech- 
wood behind it and on either side. There was 
a small embankment on which the building 
actually stood, of which the sea-wall ran straight 
down on to the rocks, so that at high tide the 
water came half-way up the stonework. There 
was a large smoking-room looking the same way, 
and a little paved path separated its windows 
from the low wall. 

" We had a series of very warm days when I 
was there, and after dinner we would sit outside 
in the dark and listen to the water lapping below. 
There was another house on the further side of 
the river, about half-a-mile away, and we could 
see its lights sometimes. About three miles up 
stream that is, on our right lay Truro, and 
Falmouth, as far as I remember, about four miles 
to the left. But we were entirely cut off from our 
neighbours by the beechwoods all round us, and, 
except for the house opposite, might have been 
clean out of civilization." 

Father Brent tossed away his cigarette and lit 

He seemed a very sensible person, I thought, 
unlike the excitable Frenchman, and his manner 
of speaking was serene and practical. 


" My friend was a widower," he went on, " but 
had one boy, about eleven years old, who, I 
remember, was to go to school after Christmas. 
I asked Franklyn, my friend, why Jack had not 
gone before, and he told me, as parents will, that 
he was a peculiarly sensitive boy, a little hysterical 
at times and very nervous, but he was less so 
than he used to be and probably, his father said, 
if he was allowed time, school would be the best 
thing for him. Up to the present, however, he 
had shrunk from sending him. 

" ' He has extraordinary fancies,' he said, 

' and thinks he sees things. The other day 

and then Jack came in, and he stopped, and I 
clean forgot to ask him afterwards what he was 
going to say. 

" Now if any one here has ever been to Corn- 
wall, he will know what a queer county it is. It 
is cram-full of legends and so on. Every one 
who has ever been there seems to have left his 
mark. You get the Phoenicians in goodness 
knows what century ; they came there for tin, 
and some of the mines still in work are supposed 
to have been opened by them. Cornish cream 
too seems to have been brought there by them 
for I need not tell you perhaps that the stuff is 
originally Cornish and not Devon . Then Solomon , 


some think, sent ships there though personally 
I believe that is nonsense ; but you get some 
curious names Marazion, for instance, which 
means the bitterness of Zion. That has made 
some believe that the Cornish are the lost tribes. 
Then you get a connexion with both Ireland and 
Brittany in names, language, and beliefs, and so 
on I could go on for ever. They still talk of 
' going to England ' when they cross the border 
into Devonshire. 

" Then the people are very odd real Celts 
with a genius for religion and the supernatural 
generally. They believe in pixies ; they have 
got a hundred saints and holy wells and holy 
trees that no one else has ever heard of. They 
have the most astonishing old churches. There 
is one convent at Lanherne I think where the 
Blessed Sacrament has remained with its light 
burning right up to the present. And lastly, 
all the people are furious Wesleyans. 

" So the whole place is a confusion of history, 
a sort of palimpsest, as the Father Rector here 
would tell us. A cross you find in the moor may 
be pagan, or Catholic, or Anglican, or most likely 
all three together. And that is what makes an 
explanation of what I am going to tell you such 
a difficult thing. 


" I did not know much about this when I went 
there on the third of October, but Franklyn told 
me a lot, and he took me about to one or two 
places here and there to Truro to see the new 
Cathedral, to Perranzabuloe where there is an old 
mystery theatre and a church in the sands, and 
so on. And one day we rowed down to Falmouth. 

' The estuary is a lovely place when the tide 
is in. You find the odd combination of seaweed 
and beech trees growing almost together. The 
trees stand with their roots in saltish water, and 
the creeks run right up into the woods. But it 
is terrible when the tide is out great sheets of 
mud, with wreckage sticking up, and draggled 
weed, and mussels, and so on. 

" About the end of my first week it was high 
tide after dinner, and we sat out on the terrace 
looking across the water. We could hear it 
lapping below, and the moon was just coming up 
behind the house. I tossed over my cigarette 
end and heard it fizz in the water, and then I 
put out my hand to the box for another. There 
wasn't one : and Franklyn said he would go 
indoors to find some. He thought he had some 
Nestors in his bedroom. 

" So Franklyn went in and I was left alone, 

" It was perfectly quiet : there was not a 


ripple on the water, which was about eight feet 
below me, as I got up from my chair and sat on 
the low wall. There was a sort of glimmer on 
the water from the moon behind, and I could see 
a yellow streak clean across the surface from the 
house opposite among the black woods. It was 
as warm as summer too/* 

Father Brent threw his cigarette away, and 
sat a little forward in his chair. I began to feel 
more interested. He was plainly interested him- 
self, for he clasped his hands round a knee, and 
gave a quick look into our faces. Then he looked 
back again at the fire as he went on. 

" Then across the streak of yellow light and 
where the moon glimmered, I saw a kind of black 
line, moving. It was coming toward me, and 
there seemed to be a sort of disturbance behind. 
I stood up and waited, wondering what it was. I 
could hear Franklyn pulling out a drawer in the 
bedroom overhead, but everything else was 
deadly still. 

" As I stood, it came nearer swiftly ; it was 
just a high ripple in the water, and a moment 
later the flat surface below heaved up, and I could 
hear it lapping and splashing on the face of the 


" It was exactly as if some big ship had gone 
up the estuary. I strained my eyes out, but 
there was nothing to be seen. There was the 
glimmer of the moon on the water, the house- 
lights burning half-a-mile away, and the black 
woods beyond. There was a beach, rocks, and 
shingle on my right, curving along toward a place 
called Meopas ; and I could hear the wave hiss 
and clatter all along it as it went up-stream. 

" Then I sat down again. 

" I cannot say I was exactly frightened ; but 
I was very much puzzled. It surely could not 
be a tidal wave ; there was certainly no ship ; 
it could not be anything swimming, for the wave 
was like the wave of a really large vessel. 

" In a minute or two Franklyn came down with 
the Nestors, and I told him. He laughed at me. 
He said it must have been a breeze, or the turn 
of the tide, or something. Then he said he had 
been in to look at Jack, and had found him in a 
sort of nightmare, tossing and moaning ; he had 
not wakened him, he said, but just touched him 
and said a word or two, and the boy had turned 
over and gone to sleep. 

" But I would not let him change the subject. 
I persisted it had been a really big wash of some 


" He stared at me. 

" ' Take a cigarette/ he said, ' I found them 
at last under a hat/ 

" But I went on at him. It had made an 
impression on me, and I was a little uncomfortable. 

" ' It is bosh/ he said. ' But we will go and 
see if you like. The wall will be wet if there was 
a big wave/ 

" He fetched a lantern, and we went down the 
steps that led round the side of the embankment 
into the water. I went first, until my feet were 
on the last step above the water. He carried the 

" Then I heard him exclaim : 

" ' You are standing in a pool/ he said. 

" I looked down and saw that it was so ; the 
steps, three of them at least, were shining in the 
light of the lantern. 

" I put out my hand for the lantern, held on 
to a ring by my left hand, and leaned out as far 
as I could, looking at the face of the wall. It was 
wet and dripping for at least four feet above the 
mark of the high-tide. 

" I told him, and he came down and looked 
too, and then we went up again to the house. 

" We neither of us said very much more that 
evening. The only suggestion that Franklyn 



could make was that it must have been a very odd 
kind of tidal wave. For myself, I knew nothing 
about tidal waves ; but I gathered from his tone 
that this certainly could not have been one. 

" We sat out about half-an-hour more, but 
there was no sound again. 

" When we went up to bed we peeped into 
Jack's room. He was lying perfectly quiet on 
his right side, turned away from the window 
which was open, but there was a little frown, I 
thought, on his forehead, and his eyes seemed 
screwed up." 

The priest stopped again. 

We were all very quiet. The story was not 
exciting, but it was distinctly interesting, and I 
could see the others were puzzled. Perhaps 
what impressed us most was the very matter-of- 
fact tone in which the story was told. 

The Rector put in a word during the silence. 

" How do you know it was not a tidal wave ? " 
he asked. 

" It may have been, Father," said the young 
priest. " But that is not the end." 

He filled his lungs with smoke, blew it out, and 
went on. 

Nothing whatever of any interest happened 


for the next day or two, except that Franklyn 
asked a boatman at Meopas whether he had heard 
anything of a wave on the Monday night. The 
man looked at us and shook his head, still looking 
at us oddly. 

' I was in bed early/ he said. 

" On the Thursday afternoon Franklyn got 
a note asking him to dine in Truro, to meet some 
one who had come down from town. I told him 
to go, of course, and he went off in his dog-cart 
about half-past six. 

" Jack and I dined together at half-past seven, 
and, I may say, we made friends. He was less 
shy when his father was away. I think Franklyn 
laughed at him a little too much, hoping to cure 
him of his fancies. 

" The boy told me some of them, though, that 
night. I don't remember any of them particu- 
larly, but I do remember the general effect, and 
I was really impressed by the sort of insight he 
seemed to have into things. He said some curious 
things about trees and their characters. Perhaps 
you remember MacDonald's Phantasies. It 
was rather like that. He was fond of beeches, I 
gathered, and thought himself safe in them ; he 
liked to climb them and to think that the house 


was surrounded by them. And there was a lot 
of things like that he said. I remember too that 
he hated cypresses and cats and the twilight. 

" ' But I am not afraid of the dark/ he said. 
' I like the dark as much as the light, and I always 
sleep with my windows open and no curtains/ ' 

Monsignor Maxwell nodded abruptly. I could 
see he was watching. 

" I know," he said. " I knew another child 
like that." 

" Well," went on Father Brent, " the boy said 
good-night and went to bed about nine. I sat 
in the smoking-room a bit, for it had turned a 
little cold, and about ten stepped out onto the 

" It was perfectly still and cloudy. I forget 
whether there was a moon. At any rate I did 
not see it. There was just the black gulf of water, 
with the line of light across it from the house 
opposite. Then I went indoors and shut the 

" I read again for a while, and finished my 
book. I had said my Office, so I looked about 
for another novel. Then I remembered there 
had been one I wanted to read in Franklyn's 
room overhead, so I took a candle and went up. 
Jack's room was over the smoking-room, and his 


father's was beyond it on the right, and there 
was a door between them. Both faced the front, 

" Franklyn's room had three windows, two 
looking on to the river and one up-stream toward 
Truro, over the beach I spoke of before. I went 
in there ; and saw that the door was open 
between the two rooms, so I slipped off my shoes 
for fear of disturbing the boy, and went across 
to the bookshelf that stood between the two 
front windows. All three windows were open. 
Franklyn was mad about fresh air." 

" I was bending down to look at the backs of 
the books, and had my finger on the one I wanted 
when I heard a kind of moan from the boy's room. 

" I stood up, startled, and it came again. 
Why, he had had a nightmare only three days 
before, I remembered. As I stood there wonder- 
ing whether it would be kind to wake him, I 
heard another sound. 

" It was a noise that came through the side 
window that looked up the beach, and it was the 
noise of a breaking wave." 

The priest made a momentary pause, and, as 
he flicked the end of his cigarette, I saw his fingers 
tremble very slightly. 

" I didn't hesitate then, but went straight into 


the room next door, and as I went across 
the floor heard the boy moaning and tossing. 
It was pitch dark and I could see nothing. 
I was thinking that tidal waves don't come 

" Then my knees struck the edge of the bed. 

" ' Jack,' I said, ' Jack.' 

" There was a rustle from the bed-clothes, and 
(I should have thought) long before he could 
have awakened, I heard his feet on the floor, and 
then felt him brush past me. Then I saw him 
outlined against the pale window with his hands 
on the glass over his head. Then I was by him, 
taking care not to touch him. 

" All this took about five seconds, I suppose, 
from the time when I heard the wave on the beach. 
I stared out now over the boy's head, but there 
was nothing in the world to be seen but the black 
water and the glimmer of the light across it. 

" Jack was perfectly silent, but I could see that 
he was watching. He didn't seem to know I 
was there. 

" Then I whispered to him rather sharply. 

11 ' What is it, Jack ? What do you see ? ' 

" He said nothing, and I repeated my question. 

" Then he answered, almost as if talking to 
himself : ' Ships,' he said, ' three ships.' 


" Now I swear there was nothing there. I 
thought it was a nightmare. 

" ' Nonsense/ I said. ' How can you see 
them ? It's too dark.' 

' A light in each/ he said, ' in the bows 
blazing ! ' 

" As he said it I saw his head turning slowly to 
the left as if he was following them. Then there 
came the sound of the wave breaking on the 
stonework just below the windows. 

" ' Are you frightened ? ' I said suddenly. 

" ' Yes/ said the boy. 

" ' Why ? ' 

" ' I don't know/ 

" Then I saw his hands come down from the 
window and cover his face, and he began to moan 

' Come back to bed/ I said, but I daren't 
touch him. I could see he was sleep-walking. 

" Then he turned, went straight across the 
room, still making an odd sound, and I heard him 
climb into bed. 

" I covered him up, and went out." 

Father Brent stopped again. He had rather 
a curious look in his face, and I saw that his 
cigarette had gone out. None of us spoke or 


Then he went on again, abruptly : 
" Well, you know, I didn't know I was frightened 
exactly until I came out onto the landing. There 
was a tall glass there on the right hand of the 
staircase, and just as I came opposite I thought 
I heard the hiss of the wave again, and I nearly 
screamed. It was only the wheels of Franklyn's 
dog-cart coming up the drive, but as I looked in 
the glass I saw that my face was like paper. We 
had a long talk about the Phoenicians that even- 
ing. Franklyn looked them out in the Encyclo- 
paedia, but there was nothing particularly 

" Well, that's all. Give me a match, Father. 
This beastly thing's gone out. It's a spaghetto." 

We had no theories to suggest. Monsignor was 
temerarious enough to remark that the story was 
an excellent illustration of his own views. 

The Father Rector's Story 

The Father Rector's Story 

THE Father Rector of San Filippo was an 
old man, a Canadian by birth, who had 
been educated in England, but he had 
worked in many parts of the world since 
receiving the priesthood nearly fifty years ago, 
and for my part I certainly expected that he 
would have many experiences to relate. 

At first, however, he entirely refused to tell 
a story. He said he had had an uneventful life, 
that he could not compete with the tales he had 
heard. But persuasion proved too strong, and 
on going in to see him on another matter one 
morning I found him at his tin dispatch-box with 
a diary in his hand. 

" I have found something that I think may do," 
he said, " if no one else has promised for this 
evening. It is really the only thing approaching 
the preternatural I have ever experienced." 

I congratulated him and ourselves ; and the 
same evening after supper he told his story, with 
the diary beside him to which he referred now 



and then. (I shall omit his irrelevancies, of 
which there were a good many.) 

" This happened to me," he said, " nearly 
thirty years ago. I had been twenty years a 
priest, and was working in a town mission in the 
south of England. I made the acquaintance of 
a Catholic family who had a large country house 
about ten miles away. They were not very fer- 
vent people, but they had a chapel in the house 
where I would say Mass sometimes on Sundays, 
when I could get away from my own church on 
Saturday night. 

" On one of these occasions I met for the first 
time an artist, whose name you would all know 
if I mentioned it, but it will be convenient to 
call him Mr. Farquharson . He made an extremely 
unpleasant impression on me, and yet there was 
no reason for it that I could see. He was a big 
man, palish, with curling brown hair. He was 
always very well dressed ; with a suspicion of 
scent about him ; he talked extremely wittily and 
would say the most surprising things that were 
at once brilliant and dangerous ; and yet in his 
talk he never transgressed good manners. In fact 
he was very cordial always to me ; he seemed 
to go out of his way to be courteous and friendly, 


and yet I could not bear the fellow. However, 
I tried to conceal that, and with some success, as 
you will see. 

" I was astonished that he asked me no 
questions about our beliefs or practices. Such 
people generally do, you know ; and they profess 
to admire our worship and its dignity. In the 
evening he played and sang magnificently ; very 
touching and pathetic songs, as a rule. 

" On the following morning he attended Mass, 
but I did not think much of that. Guests gener- 
ally do, I have found, in Catholic houses. Then 
I went off in the afternoon back to my mission. 

" I suppose it was six weeks before I met him 
again, and then it was at the same place. My 
hostess gave me tea alone, for I arrived late ; 
and as we sat in the hall she told me that Mr. 
Farquharson was there again. Then she added 
to my surprise that he had expressed a great liking 
for me, and had come down from town partly 
with the hope of meeting me. She went on talk- 
ing about him for a while ; told me that three of 
his pictures had been taken again by the French 
Salon, and at last told me that he had been 
baptized and educated as a Catholic, but had for 
many years ceased to practise his religion. She 
had only learnt this recently. 


" Well, that explained a good deal ; and I was 
greatly taken aback. I did not quite know how 
to act. But she talked on about him a little, 
and I became sorry for the man and determined 
that I would make no difference in my behaviour 
toward him. From what she said, I gathered 
that it might be in my power to win him back. 
He had everything against him, she told me. 

" Now let me tell you a word about his pictures. 
I had seen them here and there, as well as repro- 
ductions of them, as all the world had at that 
time, and they were very remarkable. They 
were on extraordinarily simple and innocent sub- 
jects and often religious a child going to 
First Communion ; a knight riding on a lonely 
road ; a boy warming his hands at the fire ; 
a woman praying. There was not a line or a 
colour in them that any one could dislike, and 
yet yet they were corrupt. I know nothing 
about art ; but it needed no art to see that these 
were corrupt. I did not understand it then, and 
I do not now ; but well, there it is. I cannot 
describe their effect on me ; but I know that many 
others felt the same, and I believe that kind of 
painting is not uncommon in the French School." 

The priest paused a moment. 


*' As I went down the long passage to the 
smoking-room, I declare that I was not thinking 
of this side of the man. I was only wondering 
whether I could do anything, but the moment 
I came in, and found him standing alone on the 
hearthrug, all this leapt back into my mind. 

" His personality was exactly like his own 
pictures. There was nothing that one could 
point to in his face and say that it revealed his 
character. It did not. It was a clean-shaven, 
clever face, strong and artistic ; his hand, as he 
took mine, was firm and slender and strong too. 
And yet yet my flesh crept at him. It seemed 
to me he was a kind of devil. 

" Again I did my utmost to hide all this, as 
we sat and talked that evening till the dressing- 
gong rang, and again I succeeded, but it was 
a sore effort. Once when he put his hand on my 
arm I nearly jerked it off, so great was the horror 
it gave me. 

" I did not sit near him at dinner ; there were 
several people dining there that night, but our 
host was unwell and went to bed early, and this 
man and myself, after he had played and sung 
an hour or so in the drawing-room, talked till 
late in the smoking-room and all the while the 
horror grew ; I have never felt anything like it. 


I am generally fairly placid ; but it was all I could 
do to keep quiet. I even wondered once or twice 
whether it was not my duty to tell him plainly 
what I felt, to to (well really this sounds 
absurd) but to curse him as an unclean and 
corrupt creature who had lost faith and grace 
and everything, and was on the very brink 
of eternal fire." 

The old man's voice rang with emotion. I had 
never seen him so much moved, and was 
astonished at his vehemence. 

"Well, thank God ! I did not ! 

" At last it came out that I knew about his 
having been a Catholic. I did not tell him where 
I had learnt it, but perhaps he suspected. Of 
course, though, I might have learnt it in a hundred 

" He seemed very much surprised not at my 
knowing, but at my treating him as I did. It 
seemed that he had met with unpleasantness more 
than once at the hands of priests who knew. 

" Well, to cut it short, before I went away 
next day he asked me to call upon him sometime 
at his house in London, and he asked me in such 
a way that I knew he meant it." 

The priest stopped and referred to his diary. 
Then he went on. 


" It was in the following May, six months later, 
that I fulfilled my promise. 

" It may have been association, and what I 
suspected of the man, but the house almost terri- 
fied me by its beauty and its simplicity and its 
air of corruption. And yet there was nothing to 
account for it. There was not a picture in it, 
as far as I could see, that had anything in it to 
which even a priest could object. There was a 
long gallery leading from the front door, floored, 
ceiled, and walled with oak in little panels, with 
pictures in each along the two sides, chiefly, I 
should suppose now, of that same French School 
of which I have spoken. There was an exquisite 
crucifix at the end, and yet, in some strange way, 
even that seemed to be tainted. I felt I suppose 
in the manner that Father Stein described to us 
when he mentioned Benares ; and yet there, I 
have heard, the pictures and carvings correspond 
with the sensation, and here they did not. 

" He received me in his studio at the end of 
the passage. There was a great painting on an 
easel, on which he was working, a painting of 
Our Lady going to the well at Nazareth most 
exquisite, and yet terrible. I could hardly keep 
my eyes off it. It was nearly finished, he told me. 
And there was his grand piano against the wall. 


" Well, we sat and talked ; and before I left 
that evening I knew everything. He did not tell 
me in confession, and the story became notorious 
after his death a few months later ; but yet I can 
tell you no more now than that all I had felt about 
him was justified by what I heard. Part of what 
t^e world did not hear would not have seemed 
important to any but a priest ; it was just the 
history of his own soul, apart from his deeds, 
the history of his wanton contempt of light and 
warnings. And I heard more besides too, that I 
cannot bear to think of even now." 

The priest stopped again ; and I could see his 
lips were trembling with emotion. We were all 
very quiet ourselves ; the effect on my mind at 
least was extraordinary. Presently he went 
on : 

" Before I left I persuaded him to go to con- 
fession. The man had not really lost faith for a 
moment, so far as I could gather. I learnt, from 
details that I cannot even hint at, that he had 
known it all to be true, pitilessly clearly, in 
his worst moments. Grace had been prevailing, 
especially of late, and he was sick of his life. Of 
course he had tried to stifle conscience, but by the 
mercy of God he had failed. I cannot imagine why, 
except that there is no end to the loving-kindness 


of God, but I have known many souls not half 
so evil as his, lose their faith and their whole 
spiritual sense beyond all human hope of recovery." 

The priest stopped again ; turned over several 
pages of his diary, and as he did so I saw him stop 
once or twice and read silently to himself, his 
lips moving. 

" I must miss out a great deal here. He did 
not come to confession to me, but to a Carthusian, 
after a retreat. I need not go into all the details 
of that so far as I knew them, and I will skip 
another six months. 

" During that time I wrote to him more than 
once, and just got a line or two back. Then I 
was ordered abroad ; and when we touched at 
Brindisi I received a letter from him." 

The priest lifted his diary again near his eyes. 

" Here is one sentence," he said. " Listen : 
* I know I am forgiven ; but the punishment is 
driving me mad. What would you say if you 
knew all ! I cannot write it. I wonder if we 
shall meet again. I wonder what you would 

" There was more that I cannot read ; but it 
offers no explanation of this sentence. I wrote of 
course at once, and said I would be home in four 
months, and asked for an explanation. I did 


not hear again, though I wrote three or four times ; 
and after three or four months in Malta I went 
back to England. 

" My first visit was to Mr. Farquharson, when 
I had written to prepare him for my coming." 

The old man stopped again, and I could see he 
was finding it more and more difficult to speak. 
He looked at the diary again once or twice, but I 
could see that it was only to give himself time to 
recover. Then he lowered it once more, leaned 
his elbow on the chair arm, and his head on his 
hand, and went on in a slow voice full of effort : 

" The first change was in the gallery ; his 
pictures were all gone, and in their place hung 
others engravings and portraits of no interest 
or beauty that I could see. The crucifix was gone, 
and in its place stood another very simple and 
common a plaster figure on a black cross. It was 
all very commonplace such a room as you might 
see in any house. The man took me through 
as before, but instead of opening the studio door, 
as I expected, turned up the stairs on the right, 
and I followed. He stopped at a little door at 
the end of a short passage, tapped, and threw it 
open. He announced my name and I went in." 

He paused once more. 

" There was a Japanese screen in front of me 


and I went round it, wondering what I should 
find. I caught a sight of a simple commonplace 
room with a window looking out on my left, and 
then I saw an old man sitting in a high chair 
over the fire on which boiled a saucepan, warming 
his hands, with a rug over his knees. His face 
was turned to me, but it was that of a stranger. 

"There was a table between us, and I stood 
hesitating, on the point of apologizing, and the 
old man looked at me smiling. 

" * You do not know me,' he said. 

" Then I saw it bore an odd sort of resemblance 
to Mr. Farquharson ; and I supposed it was his 
father. That would account for the mistake 
too, I thought in a moment. My letter must 
have been delivered to him instead. 

" * I came to see Mr. Farquharson,' I said. 

' I beg your pardon if ' Then he interrupted 

me well, you will guess this was the man I 
had come to see. It took a minute or two before 
I could realize it. I swear to you that the man 
looked, not ten, nor twenty, nor thirty, but fifty 
years older. 

" I went and took his hand and sat down, but 
I could not say a word. Then he told me his 
story ; and as he told it I watched him. I looked 
at his face ; it had been full and generous in its 


lines, now the skin was drawn tightly over his 
cheeks and great square jaw. His hair, so much 
of it as escaped under his stuff cap, was snow- white, 
and like silk. His hands, stretched over the fire, 
were gnarled and veined and tremulous. And 
all this had come to him in less than one year. 

"Well, this was his story. His health had 
failed abruptly within a month of my last sight 
of him. He had noticed weakness coming on 
soon after his reconciliation, and the failure of 
his powers had increased like lightning. 

" I will tell you what first flashed into my 
mind, that it was merely a sudden unprecedented 
breakdown that had first given room for grace 
to reassert itself, and had then normally 
gone forward. The life he had led well, you 

" Then he told me a few more facts that soon 
put that thought out of my head. All his artistic 
powers had gone too. He gave me an example. 

" ' Look round this room,' he said in his old 
man's voice, ' and tell me frankly what you think 
of it the pictures the furniture.' 

" I did so, and was astonished at their ugliness. 
There were a couple of hideous oleographs on the 
wall opposite the window perhaps you know 
them of the tombs of Our Lord and His Blessed 


Mother, with yellow candlesticks standing upon 
them. There were green baize curtains by the 
windows ; an Axminster carpet of vivid colours 
on the floor ; a mahogany table in the centre 
with a breviary upon it and a portfolio open. It 
was the kind of a room that you might find in 
twenty houses in a row on the outskirts of a 
colliery town. 

" I supposed of course that he had furnished 
his room like this out of a morbid kind of 
mortification, and I hinted this to him. 

" He smiled again, but he looked puzzled. 

" * No, he said, * indeed not. Then you do 
think them ugly too ? Well, well. It is that I 
do not care. Will you believe me when I tell 
you that ? There is no asceticism in the matter. 
Those pictures seem to me as good as any others. 
I have sold the others.' 

" ' But you know they are not good,' I said. 

* My friends tell me so, and I remember I 
used to think so once too. But that has all gone. 
Besides, I like them.' 

"He turned in his chair and opened the 
portfolio that lay by him. 

" ' Look,' he said, and pushed it over to me, 
watching my face as I took it. 

" It was full of sheets of paper, scrawled with 


such pictures as a stupid child might draw. There 
was not the faintest trace of any power in them. 
Here is one of them that he gave me." (He drew 
out a paper from his diary and held it up.) "I 
will show it you presently. 

" As I looked at them it suddenly struck me 
that all this was an elaborate pose. I suppose I 
showed the thought in the way I glanced up at 
him. At any rate he knew it. He smiled again, 

" ' No,' he said, ' it is not a pose. I have posed 
for forty years, but I have forgotten how to do it 
now. It does not seem to me worth while, either.' 

" ' Are you happy ? ' I asked. 

" ' Oh ! I suppose so,' he said. 

"I sat there bewildered. 

" * And music ? ' I said. 

" He made a little gesture with his old hands. 

" * Tell Jackson to let you see the piano in the 
studio,' he said, ' as you go downstairs. And you 
might look at the picture of Our Lady at Nazareth 
at the same time. You will see how I tried to 
go on with it. My friends tell me it is all wrong, 
and asked me to stop. I supposed they knew, 
so I stopped.' 

" Well, we talked a while and I learnt how all 
was with him. He believed with his whole being, 


and that was all. He received the Sacraments 
once a week, and he was happy in a subdued 
kind of way. There was no ecstasy of happiness ; 
there was no torment from the imagination, such 
as is usual in these cases of conversion. He had 
suffered agonies at first from the loss of his powers, 
as he realized that his natural perceptions were 
gone, and it was then that he had written to me." 

The Rector stopped again a moment, fingering 
the paper. 

" I saw his doctor, of course, and " 

Monsignor broke in. I noticed that he had 
been listening intently. 

" The piano and the picture ? " he said. 

" Ah ! yes. Well, the piano was just a box of 
strings ; many of the notes were broken and the 
other wires were hopelessly out of tune. They 
were broken, the man told me, within a week 
or two of his master's change of life he spoke 
quite frankly to me Mr. Farquharson had tried 
to play, it seemed, and could scarcely play a right 
note, and in a passion of anger, it was supposed, 
had smashed the notes with his fists. And the 
picture well, it was a miserable sight there 
was a tawdry sort of crown, ill-drawn and ill- 
coloured on her head, and a terrible sort of 
cherub painted all across the sky. Someone else, 


it seemed, had tried to paint these out, which 
increased the confusion. 

" The doctor told me it was softening of the 
brain. I asked him honestly to tell me whether 
he had ever come across such a case before, and 
he confessed he had not. 

" It took me a week or two, and another 
conversation with Mr. Farquharson before I 
understood what it all meant. It was not natural, 
the doctor assured me, and it could scarcely be 
that Almighty God had arbitrarily inflicted such 
a punishment. And then I thought I understood. 
as no doubt you have all done before this." 

The old priest's voice had an air of finality in 
his last sentence, and he handed the scrap of 
paper to Father Bianchi, who sat beside him. 

" One moment, Father," I said, " I do not 
understand at all." 

The priest turned to me, and his eyes were full 
of tears. 

" Why this is my reading of it," he said ; " this 
man had been one mass of corruption, body, mind 
and soul. Every power of his had been nurtured 
on evil for thirty years. Then he made his effort 
and the evil was withdrawn and and, well he 
fell to pieces. The only thing that was alive in 
him was the life of grace. There was nothing 


else to live. He died, too, three months later, 
tolerably happy, I think." 

As I pondered this the paper was handed to 
me, and I looked at it in bewildered silence. It 
was a head, grotesque in its feebleness and lack 
of art. There was a crown of thorns about it, 
and an inscription in a child's handwriting 
below : 

Deus in virtute Tua salvum me fac I 
Then my own eyes were full of tears too. 

Father Girdlestone's Tale 

Father Girdlestone's Tale 

44 T HAVE found another raconteur for this 

X evening," said Monsignor as he came 
in to jdinner on the following day, " but 
he cannot be here till late." 

The Rector looked up questioningly. 

" Yes, I know," said Monsignor unfolding his 
napkin. " But it is a long story ; it will take 
at least two nights ; but but it is a beauty, 
reverend Fathers." 

We murmured appreciatively. 

" I heard him tell it twenty years ago," 
proceeded the priest, " I was a boy then. . . . 
I had a bad night after it, I remember. But the 
first part is rather dull." 

The appreciative murmur was even louder. 

" Well, then ; is that settled ? " 

We assented. 

The entrance of Father Girdlestone that evening 
was somewhat dramatic. We were all talking 
briskly together in our wide semicircle, when 



Father Brent uttered an exclamation. The talk 
died, and I, turning from my corner, saw a very 
little old man standing behind the Rector's chair, 
motionless and smiling. He was one of the 
smallest men, not actually deformed, I have ever 
seen, small and very delicate looking. His white 
silky hair was thin on his head, but abundant 
over his ears ; his face was like thin ivory, trans- 
parent and exquisitely carved ; his eyes so over- 
hung that I could see nothing of them but two 
patches of shadow with a diamond in each. And 
there he stood, as if materialized from air, beneath 
the folds of his ample Roman cloak. 

" I beg your pardon, reverend Fathers," he 
said and his voice was as delicate as his com- 
plexion " I tapped, but no one seemed to hear 

The Rector bustled up from his chair. 

" My dear Father " he began ; but Monsignor 

" A most appropriate entry, Father Girdlestone," 
he said. " You could not have made a more 
effective beginning." He moved his hand. 
" Father Girdlestone," he said, introducing us 
" And this is the Father Rector." 

We were all standing up by now, looking at 
this tranquil little old man ; and we bowed and 


murmured deferentially. There was something 
very dignified about this priest. Then chairs 
were re-sorted I got my own again, moving it 
against the wall, watching him as, with almost 
foreign manners, he bowed this way and that 
before seating himself in the centre. Then we 
all sat down ; and after a word or two of talk, 
he began. 

" I understand from my friend, Monsignor 
Maxwell,*' he said, " that you gentlemen would 
like to hear my story. I am very willing indeed 
to tell it. No possible harm can follow from it, 
and, perhaps even good may be the result, if ever 
any one who shall hear it is afflicted with the 
same visitation. But it is a long story, gentle- 
men and I am an old man and shall no doubt 
make it longer." 

He was reassured, I think, by our faces ; and 
without further apology he began his tale. 

" My first and only curacy," he said, " was in 
the town of Cardiff. I was sent there after my 
ordination, four years before the re-establish- 
ment of the hierarchy in England ; and the year 
after our bishops were given us I was sent to 
found a mission inland. Now, gentlemen, I shall 


not tell you where that was ; though no doubt, 
you will be able to find out if you desire to do so. 
It will be enough now to describe to you the 
circumstances and the place. 

It was a little colliery village to which I went, 
we will call it Abergwyll. 

of Irish Catholics there who are, as you know, 
the most devout persons on the face of the earth. 
They begged very hard for a priest, and, I sus- 
pect, gentlemen, there was collusion in the matter. 
The Bishop's chaplain had Irish blood in his veins." 

He smiled pleasantly. 

" At least, there I was sent, with a stipend of 
forty pounds and a letter of commendation and 
permission to beg. My parishioners set at my 
disposal a four-roomed house standing at the 
outskirts of the village, removed, I should say, 
forty yards from any other house. Behind my 
house was open country a kind of moor stretch- 
ing over hill and dale to the mountains of Brecon. 
The colliery itself stood on the further side of 
the village and beneath it, half a mile away. Of 
the four rooms I used one as a chapel, on the 
ground floor ; that at the back was the kitchen 
I slept over the kitchen, and used as my 
sitting-room and sacristy that over the chapel. 

" I will not detain you with my first experiences. 


They were most edifying. I have never seen 
such devotion and fervour. My own devotion 
was sensibly increased by all that I heard and 
saw. The shepherd, in this case at least, was 
taught many lessons by his sheep. 

" Now the first ambition of every young priest 
who is worthy of the name, is to build a great 
church to God's glory. Even I had this ambition. 
I had not a great deal of work to do in fact I 
may say that there was really nothing to do 
except to say mass and office, and to conduct 
evening devotions, as I did, every night in the 
chapel ; and that little chapel, gentlemen, was 
full every night. Much of the day, therefore, I 
spent in walking and dreaming. In the morning, 
as summer came on, I was accustomed to take 
my office-book out with me, and to go over the 
moor, perhaps three hundred yards away, to a 
little ravine where a stream went down into the 
valley. There I would sit in the shade of a rock, 
listening to the voice of the water, and saying 
my prayers. When I had done I would lie on 
my back, looking up at the rock and the sky, and 
dreaming well, as every young priest dreams. 

" I do not know when it was that I first under- 
stood what God intended me to do. I began by 
thinking of a great town where my church should 


stand Cardiff, ,or perhaps Newport. I even 
arranged its architecture ; it was to be a primitive 
Roman basilica, large and plain, with a great 
apse with a Christ in glory frescoed there. On 
His right were to be the redeemed, on His left 
the lost no more than that, with a pair of great 
angels behind the throne. That, gentlemen, 
without text or comment has always seemed to 
me the greatest sermon on earth." 

He paused, and looked round at us an instant. 

" Well, gentlemen, you know what day-dream- 
ing is. I even occupied my time I with forty 
pounds a year and thirty collier-parishioners 
in drawing designs for my church. And then, 
suddenly, on a summer's day a new thought 
came to me, and something else with it. 

" I was lying on my back on the short grass, 
looking up at the rock against the sky, when the 
thought came to me that here my basilica should 
stand. The rock should be levelled, I thought, 
to a platform. The foundations should be 
blasted out, and here my church should stand, 
alone on the moor, to witness that the demands 
of God's glory were dominant and sovereign 
. . . Yes, gentlemen, most unpractical and 
fantastic. . . . 

" I sat up at the thought. It came to me as 


a revelation. In that instant I no more doubted 
that it should be accomplished than that God 
reigned. I looked below me at the stream. 
Yes ; I saw it all ; there the stream should dash 
and chatter ; all about me were the solemn 
moors ; and here, here on the rock behind me 
should stand my basilica, and the Blessed 
Sacrament within it. 

" I was just about to turn to look at my rock 
again, when something happened." 

The old man stopped dead. 

" Now, gentlemen, I do not know if I can make 
this plain to you. What happened to me hap- 
pened only interiorly ; but it was as real as a 
thunder-clap or a vision. It was this ; it was 
an absolute conviction that something was 
looking at me from over the top of the rock 

" My first thought was that I had heard a sound. 
Then simultaneously the horn blew from the 
colliery a mile away, and and " he hesitated, 
" 1 was aware that this external sound was on a 
different plane. I do not know how to make 
that plain to you ; but it was as when one's 
imagination is full of some remembered melody 
and a real sound breaks upon it. The horn 
ceased and there was silence again. Then after 


a moment more my interior experience ceased 
too, as abruptly as it had begun. 

" All that time, three or four seconds at least, I 
had sat still and rigid without turning my head. 
I must describe to you as well as I can my sensa- 
tions during those seconds. You must forgive 
me for being verbose about it. 

" Those who have attained to Saint Teresa's 
Prayer of Quiet tell us that it is a new world into 
which they consciously penetrate a world with 
objects, sounds and all the rest but that these 
are entirely incommunicable even to the brain of 
the percipient. No adequate image or analogy 
can be found for those intuitions ; still less can 
they be expressed in words. I suppose that this is 
an illustration of the truth that the Kingdom of 
Heaven is within us. 

" Well, gentlemen, I was aware during those 
seconds that I was in that state, that I had, as it 
were, stepped through the crust of the world of 
sense and even of intellectual thought. What I 
perceived of a person watching me was not on 
this plane at all. It was not one who in any 
sense had a human existence, who had ever 
had one, or ever would. It did not in the least 
resemble therefore an apparition of the dead. But 
the perception of this was gradual, as also of the 


nature of the visitation of which I shall speak 
in a moment. At first there was only the act 
of the entrance into my neighbourhood as of 
one entering a room ; then gradually, although 
with great speed, I perceived the nature of the 
visitation and the character of the visitant. 

" And again, that sound, if I may call it so, 
was not that of a material object ; it was not a 
cry or a word or a movement. Yet it was in 
some way the expression of a personality. Shall 

we say ' he stopped again, " Well ; do you 

know what the sound of a flame is ? There is 
not exactly a vibration not a note nor a roar 
nor a nor anything. Well, I do not think I 
can express it more clearly than by saying that 
that is the nearest analogy I can name in the 
world of sense. It was as the note of a vivid and 
intense personality ; and it continued during 
that period and died noiselessly at the end like 
a sudden singing in the ears. 

" Now I have taken the sense of hearing as 
the one which best expresses my experience ; but 
it was not really hearing any more than seeing 
or tasting or feeling. It seemed to me that if 
it was true, as scientists tell us, that we have but 
one common sense expressing itself in five ways, 
that common sense was indirectly affected in 


this intense and piercing way only beneath its 
own plane, if I may say so. 

" And one thing more. Although this presence 
seemed to bring on me a kind of paralysis, so that 
I did not move or even objectively think, yet 
beneath, my soul was aware of a repulsion and a 
hatred that I am entirely unable to describe. As 
God is absolute goodness and Love, so this 
presence affected me with precisely the opposite 
instinct. . . . There I must leave it that. I 
must just ask you to take my word for it that 
there was present to me during those few seconds 
a kind of distilled Quintessence of all that is 
Not-God, under the aspect of a person, and of 
a person, as I have said, quite apart from human 

The priest's quiet little voice, speaking now 
even lower than he began, yet perfectly articu- 
late and unmoved, ceased ; and I leaned back 
in my chair drawing a long breath. Again, I 
will only speak for myself, and say that he had 
seemed to be putting into words for the first 
time in my experience something which I had 
never undergone and which yet I recognized 
as simply true. I doubted it no more than if he 
had described a walk he had taken in Rome. 


He looked round at the motionless faces ; then 
he lifted one knee on to the other and began to 
nurse it. 

" Well, gentlemen ; it would be about ten 
minutes I suppose before I stood up. I looked 
over my shoulder before that, yet knowing I 
should see nothing, and indeed there was nothing 
to see but the old rock and the sky, and the 
silhouette of the grasses against it. I continued 
to sit there, because I felt too tired to move. It 
was a kind of complete languor that took posses- 
sion of me. I had no actual fear now ; I knew 
that the thing, whatever it was, had withdrawn 
itself it had whisked, if I may say so, out of 
my range, as swift as a lizard who knows himself 
observed. I knew perfectly well that it would 
approach more cautiously if it should ever 
approach me again, but that for the present I 
need not fear. 

" There was another curious detail too. I had 
and have now no reflex horror when I think 
of it. You see that it had not taken place before 
my senses not even, indeed, before my intel- 
lect or my conscious powers. It was completely 
in the transcendent sphere ; and therefore at 
least I can only suppose that this is the reason 
therefore when the door was shut, and I was 


returned to my human existence, I had no 
associations or even direct memory of the horror. 
I knew that it had taken place, but my objective 
imagination was not tarnished by it. Later, 
it was different ; but I shall come to that pres- 
ently. There was the languor, taking its rise 
I suppose in the very essence of my being 
where I had experienced and resisted the assault, 
and this languor communicated itself to my 
mind ; just as weariness of mind communicates 
itself to the body. Then, after a little rest, I 
got up and went home. It was curious also 
that after dining the languor had risen even higher : 
I felt intolerably tired, and slept dreamlessly in 
my chair the whole afternoon. 

" That then, gentlemen, was the beginning of 
my visitation. It was only the beginning, and 
to some degree differed from its continuation. 
It seemed to me, later, when I looked back upon 
it, that the personality had changed its assault 
somewhat, that at first it had rushed upon me 
unthinking, impelled by its own passion, and 
that afterwards it laid siege with skill and delibera- 
tion. . . . But are you sure, gentlemen, that I 
am not boring you with all this ? " 

Monsignor answered for us. (I noticed that 
he cleared his throat slightly before speaking.) 


" No, no, Father. . . . Please go on." 
The old priest paused a moment as if to 
recollect himself ; then, still nursing his knee, 
he began again in his quiet little voice. 

" I do not know exactly how long it was before 
I began to understand my danger ; but I think 
the thought first occurred to me one day during 
my meditation. Soon after my ordination I had 
read Mme. Guyon's book on prayer, in order to 
understand exactly what it was that had been 
condemned in Quietism ; and I suppose it had 
affected me to some extent. It is indeed a 
very subtle book, and extremely beautiful. At 
any rate I had long been accustomed to close my 
meditation with what she calls the "awful silence " 
in the Presence of God. I do not think that, 
normally speaking, there is any harm in this ; 
on the contrary, for active-minded people in 
danger of intellectualism I think it a very useful 
exercise. Well, it was one day, I should think 
within a fortnight of my experience by the rock, 
that I first understood that for me there was 
danger. I was in my little chapel, before the 
Blessed Sacrament. Everything was quite quiet ; 
the men were at work, and the women in their 
houses ; it was a hot sunny morning I remem- 
ber, breathlessly still : I had finished my formal 


meditation, and was sitting back in my 

" You all know, gentlemen, of course, the way in 
which one can approach the silence before God. 
Of course the simplest can do it if they will take 

Monsignor Maxwell interrupted, still in that 
slightly strained voice in which he had spoken 
just now. 

" Please describe it," he said. 

The priest looked up deprecatingly. 

" Well then First I had withdrawn myself 
from the world of sense. That takes, as you 
know, sometimes several minutes ; it is necessary 
to sink down in thought in such a manner that 
sounds no longer distract the attention even 
though they may be heard, and even considered 
and reflected upon. Then the second step is to 
leave behind all intellectual considerations and 
images, and that too sometimes is troublesome, 
especially if the mind is naturally active. Well, 
this day I found an extraordinary ease in both 
the acts." 

Father Brent leaned forward. 

" May I interrupt, Father ? But I am not 
sure that I understand," 


The old man pursed his lips. Then he glanced 
up at the rest of us almost apologetically. 

" Well, it is this, my dear Father. . . . How 
can I put it ? It is the introversion of the soul. 
Instead of considering this object or that, either 
by looking upon it or reflecting upon it, the soul 
turns inwards. There are the two distinct planes 
on which many men, especially those who pay 
little or no attention to the soul, live continually. 
Either they continually seek distractions ; they 
cannot be devout except in company or before 
an image ; or else as indeed many do who have 
even the gift of recollection they dwell entirely 
upon considerations and mental images. Now 
the true introversion is beneath all this. The 
soul sinks, turning inwards upon itself. . . there 
are no actual considerations at all ; those become 
in their turn as much distractions to the energy 
of the soul as external objects to the energy of the 
mind. ... Is that clearer, my dear Father ? " 

It was all said with a kind of patient and apolo- 
getic simplicity. Father Brent nodded pensively 
two or three times and dropped his chin again 
upon his hand. The old priest went on. 

" Well, gentlemen, as I said just now ; on this 
morning I came into the silence without an effort. 

8 <*ooo) 


First the sensible world dropped away. I heard 
a woman open and shut her door fifty yards 
away down the street ; but it was no more than 
a sound. Then almost immediately the world 
of images and considerations went past me 
and vanished ; and I found myself in perfect 

" For an instant it seemed to me that all was 
well. There was that strange tranquillity all 
about me. ... I cannot put it into words 
except by saying, as all do who practise that 
method, that it is a living tranquillity full of a 
very vital energy. This is not of course that to 
which contemplatives penetrate ; St. John of 
the Cross makes that very plain ; it is no more 
than that in which we ought always to live. It 
is that Kingdom of God within, of which our 
Blessed Lord tells us ; but it is not the Palace 
itself. . . . However, as I have said, when one 
has but learnt the way there and the difficulty 
of doing so lies only in its extreme and singular 
simplicity when one has learnt the way there 
it is full of pleasure and consolation. 

"I remained there, as my manner was, drawing 
a long breath or two as one is obliged to do I 
do not know why. And at first all seemed well. 
There was that peace about me which may be 


described under the image of any one of the five 
senses. I prefer to speak of it now as under the 
image of light a very radiant mellow light full 
of warmth and sweetness. There was too, just 
at first, that sense of profound abasement and 
adoration which is so familiar. ... As I said, 
gentlemen, I do not of course for an instant 
pretend to the gift of pure contemplation ; 
that is something far beyond. 

" Then, all in an instant that sense of 
adoration vanished. 

" Now it was not that I had risen back again 
to meditation ; there were no images before my 
attention, no reflections of any formulated kind. 
It was still the pure perception, and yet all sense 
of adoration and of God's Majesty was gone. 
The light and the peace were there still, but but 
not God. . . . 

" Then I perceived, if I may say so, that some- 
thing was on the point of disclosure. It was as 
if something was about to manifest itself. I per- 
ceived that the light was not as it had been. It 
was like that strange vivid sunlight that we see 
sometimes when a heavy cloud is overhead. That 
is the only way in which I can express it. It is 
for that reason that I called it light, rather than 
sound or touch. For an instant, still, I hesitated. 


The thought of what had happened to me by 
the rock never came to my mind ; and with incon- 
ceivable swiftness the process passed on. To 
use an auditory metaphor for a moment it was 
like the change of an orchestra. The minor note 
steals in ; a blight passes over the character of 
the sound ; and, simultaneously the volume 
increases, the chords expand, tearing the heart 
with them ; and the listener perceives that a 
moment later the climax will break in thunder." 

He had raised his voice a little by now ; his 
eyes glanced this way and that, though still 
without a trace of self-consciousness. Then again 
his voice dropped. 

" Well, gentlemen, before that final moment 
came I had remembered. The vision of the rock 
and the chatter of the stream was before me, 
sharp as a landscape under lightning. ... I 
do not know what I did ; but I was aware of 
making a kind of terrified effort. My soul sprang 
up, as a diver who chokes under water ; and in 
an instant the whole thing was gone. Then I 
became aware that my eyes were open, and that 
I was standing up. I was still terrified by the 
suddenness of the experience ; and stood there, 
saying something aloud to our Lord in the 
Tabernacle. Then I heard the door open behind me. 


"Did you cry out, Father," said Bridget, 
" Why, Mother of Mercy ! " 

" I felt myself beginning to sway on my feet. 
. . . Well, gentlemen, I need not trouble you with 
all that. The truth was that Bridget, who was 
washing up my breakfast things in the kitchen, 
heard me cry out. She told me afterwards that 
when she saw my face she thought that I was 
dying. ... I sat down a little then ; and she 
fetched me something ; and presently I was able 
to walk out. 

" Well, gentlemen, that is enough for this 

He stopped abruptly. 

We got up and went to night-prayers. 


"WELL, so far," began Father Girdlestone on 
the following evening, " so far you see two things 
had happened to me. First there seems to have 
been a kind of unpremeditated assault that 
affected me body, mind and soul. That was 
the attack by the rock. Then he began to lay 
siege more deliberately ; and attacked me in my 
meditation in what I may call the innermost 
chamber that ante-room to the transcendent 


world. Now I have to tell you of his next 

There was a rustle of expectation as we settled 
ourselves to listen. I had found on questioning 
the others in the morning that they were in the 
same attitude as myself, impressed, but not 
convinced indeed, strangely impressed by the 
extreme subtlety of the experience related to us. 
Yet there had been no proof, no tangible evidence, 
such as we are accustomed to demand, that the 
incidents had been anything more than subjective. 
At the same time there had been something 
remarkable in the priest's assurance as well as in 
the precise particularity of his narrative. It 
seemed now, however, from what he said, that 
perhaps we were to have more materialistic 
elements presented to us. 

" The result, of course," continued Father 
Girdlestone, " of the attack upon my soul was 
that I became terrified at the thought of any 
further act of introversion. It seemed to me on 
reflection that I had probably overstrained my 
faculties a little, and that I had better be more 
distinctly meditative in devotion. 

" I fetched down therefore from my shelves a 
copy of the Spiritual Exercises, and set to work, 
I began with a carefully objective act of the 


Presence of God, dwelling chiefly upon the Blessed 
Sacrament, and then pursued carefully the lines 
laid down. Two or three times every day, I 
should say, I was tempted to fall back upon the 
Prayer of Quiet ; and each time I resisted it. 
It was a kind of frightened fascination that I 
felt for it. It was as if it had been a cupboard 
where something terrible lurked in silence and 
darkness, ready to tear me if I opened the door. 
Of course I should have opened it boldly : any 
priest of experience would have told me so at 
once : but I did not fully understand what was 
wrong. The result was as you shall hear. 

" All went well for several days. I meditated 
with care, making the prescribed considerations 
the preludes, the pictures and all the rest observ- 
ing to go straight from the intellectual act to the 
voluntary. I became soothed and content again. 
Then, without any warning the new assault was 
made. It came about in this fashion. 

" I was meditating upon the Particular Judg- 
ment ; and had formed the picture, as vividly as 
possible, of my soul before the Judge. I saw the 
wounds and the stains on one side ; the ineffably 
piercing grace and holiness on the other. I saw 
the reproach in the Judge's face. I seized my 
soul by the neck, as it were, and crushed it down 


in humility and penitence. And then suddenly it 
seemed to me that my hold relaxed, and all 
faded. Now this assault came to me in intellec- 
tual form, yet I cannot remember the argu- 
ments. It began, if I may say so, as a blot upon 
the subject of my meditation, effacing the image 
of my Judge and of myself ; and it spread with 
inconceivable swiftness over the whole of my 
faith. . . ." 

The priest paused, smiling steadily at the fire. 

" How shall I put it ? " he said. " Well, in a 
word it was intellectual doubt of the whole thing. 
A kind of cloud of infidelity seemed to envelop 
me. I beat against it ; but it poured on, thick 
and black. There seemed to me no Person 
behind it ; it was the very negative of Personality 
that surrounded me. ' After all,' it seemed to say 
to me, yet without words or intellect, you under- 
stand ' after all this is a pretty picture ; but 
where is the proof ? What shadow of a proof is 
there that the whole thing is not a dream ? If 
there were objective proof, how could any man 
doubt ? If there is not objective proof, what 
reason have you to trust in religion at all far 
more to sacrifice your life to it ? ... Death, 
too what is that but the resolving of the ele- 
ments that issue in what you call the soul ? And 


when the elements resolve the soul disperses ' 
. . . and so on, and so on. You know it, 
gentlemen. ... It suggested hostile things 
against our Lord when I turned to the Taber- 
nacle. And then, on a sudden, as it had done 
in the deeper plane, it spread upwards to an 
intolerable climax. I began to see myself as a 
dying spark in a burning out world ; and there 
was no escape for there was nothing but empty 
space about me : no God, no heaven ; not even a 
devil to hint at life in some form at least after 
death. I looked during those seconds into the 
gulf of annihilation. ... I cried out in my 
heart that I would sooner live in hell than die 
there . . . and the vision, if I may call it 
so, of ultimate eternal blackness cleared every 
instant before my intellect until it was imminent 
upon me as a demonstrable certainty ; and then, 
once more, before that loomed out as actually 
intellectually certain, I struggled, and stood up, 
saying something aloud, the name of God, I think, 
while the sweat poured down my face. 

" It passed then at least in its acuteness. 
There was the little domed Tabernacle before me 
with its white curtains, and the altar-cards and 
the gilt candlesticks ; and a woman went past the 
window in clogs ; and I heard a bird twitter 


beneath the eaves, and it was all, for a while, 
natural and peaceful again." 

The priest stopped. 

" Now, gentlemen," he said very slowly. 
" Intellectual difficulties have occurred to most 
people, I imagine. How should it not be so ? If 
religion were small enough for our intellects it 
could not be great enough for our soul's require- 
ments. But this was not just that fleeting tran- 
sient obscurity that we call intellectual difficulty. 
It was to ordinary darkness, what substance is to 
imagination what a visible concrete scene is to 
a fancy what life is to dreaming. I know I 
cannot express what I mean ; but I want you to 
take it on -my word that this visitation in the 
realm of the intellect was a solid blackness, com- 
pared with which all other difficulties that I have 
ever heard of or experienced are as a mere lower- 
ing of intellectual lights. It was paralleled only 
by my experience in introversion. That, too, had 
not been an emotional withdrawal, or a spiritual 
dryness, as we commonly use those words. It 
had been a solid unutterably heavy burden 
real beyond description. . . . And further, I want 
you to consider my dilemma. I had been routed 
in my soul and dared not take refuge there ; I 
had been overwhelmed too, in my intellect ; 


and even when the first misery had passed it 
seemed to me that the arguments against the 
Faith were stronger than those for it. I did not 
dare to put one against the other. A heavy 
deposit had been left upon my understanding. 
I did not dare to sit down and argue ; I did not 
dare to run for refuge to the Silence of God. I 
was driven out into the sole thing that was left 
the world of sense." 

Again he stopped, still with that tranquil 
smile. I hardly understood him ; though I 
think I saw very dimly what he had called his 
dilemma. Yet I did not understand what he 
meant by the " world of sense." 

After a little pause he went on 

" To the world of sense," he repeated. " It 
seemed to me now that this was all that was left. 
I determined then and there to drop my medita- 
tion, and to confine myself to Mass, office, and 
rosary. I would say the words with my lips, 
quickly and steadily, keeping my mind fixed 
upon them rather than upon their meaning ; 
and I would trust that presently the clouds 
would pass. 

" Well, gentlemen, for about two months I 
continued this. The misery I suffered is simply 
indescribable. You can imagine all the suggestions 


I made to myself when I was off my guard. 
I told myself that I was a coward and a sham 
that I had lost my faith and that I continued to 
act as a priest ! What was especially hard to 
bear was the devotion of my parishioners. As I 
knelt in front saying the rosary and they responded, 
I could hear the thrill of conviction in every word 
that they uttered. Oh ! those Irish ! The things 
they said to me sometimes were like swords 
for pain . . . the Masses they asked me to 
say. . . ! 

" I went to a priest at a distance once or twice 
and told him the bare outline not as I have told it 
to you. He laughed at me, kindly of course. He 
told me that it was the effect of loneliness, while 
I knew that at the best it was the work of one who 
bore me continual company now and who was 
stronger than I. He told me that all young 
priests had to win the victory in some form or 
other ; that every priest thought his own case 
the most desperate. . . . Yet I knew from 
every word that he said that he did not under- 
stand ; and that I could never make him under- 
stand. Yet, somehow, I set my teeth : I told 
God that I was willing to bear this dereliction 
for as long as He willed so paradoxical and 
mysterious is the gift of Faith if He would 


but save my soul ; and at last, in a kind of 
defiance, I began to look once more at my designs 
for the church I was to build. 

" You see, gentlemen, what I meant by taking 
refuge in the world of sense. I deliberately 
contemplated never daring to face God again 
interiorly, or even my own soul. I would do my 
duty as a priest ; I would say my Mass and office ; 
I would preach strictly what the Church enjoined ; 
I would live and die like that, with my teeth set. 
Better God beaten and denied, than all the world 
beside in prosperity ! " 

For the first time in the whole of his narrative 
Father Girdlestone's voice trembled a little. He 
passed his thin old hand over his mouth once or 
twice, shifted his position and began again. 

" It was on the first of October that I took 
down my plans again. I had not looked at them 
for two months : I had not the heart to do so. 

" Now let me describe to you exactly the 
room in which I sat and the other necessary 

" In the centre of my room stood my table with 
two windows on my left, the fire in front and the 
door behind me to the right. The windows were 
hung with serge curtains. I had no carpet ; but 


a little mat only beneath my table and another 
before the fire. 

" It was in the beginning of October to be 
accurate, the third of the month that this thing 
happened that I am about to tell you. 

" I awoke early that morning, said my Mass as 
usual, with attention and care, but no sensible 
devotion, and after my thanksgiving sat down to 
breakfast. It was then that I first had any 

" I was breakfasting at my table, and beyond 
me, in front and to the right stood a large basket 
chair. I was reading some book or other, and can 
honestly say that nothing was further from 
my mind than my experiences in the summer. 
Remember, during two months nothing had hap- 
pened nothing at least, beyond that intolerable 
intellectual darkness. Then the basket-chair 
suddenly clicked, in the way in which they 
do half-an-hour after one has sat in them. It 
distracted my attention for an instant it was 
just enough for that ; no more. I went on with 
my book. 

" Then it clicked again, three or four times ; 
and I looked up, rather annoyed. . . . Well, 
to be brief, this went on and on. After break- 
fast when Bridget came to fetch the tray I asked 


whether she had touched the chair that morning. 
She told me No. (All this time, remember, no 
thought of anything odd had entered my head.) 
I supposed it was the damp ; and said so. 

" While she was still in the room I went out to 
fetch my breviary from the chapel ; and as I set 
foot on the stairs, leaving the door open behind 
me, I heard her, as I thought, come out after me 
with the tray, and follow me, three or four steps 
behind, all down the staircase. I had no more 
doubt of that than of the fact that I myself was 
going downstairs. At the turn of the stairs I 
did not even look behind. By the sounds not 
clear footfalls you understand but a kind of 
shuffling and breathing, and still more by the con- 
sciousness that there she was, I judged she was 
in a hurry, as she often was. At the foot of the 
stairs I turned to say something, and, as I began 
to turn I will swear that I saw a figure out of the 
corner of my eye ; but when I looked, it was 
simply not there. There was nothing there. . . . 
Do you understand, gentlemen ? Nothing at all. 

" I called up to her ; and heard her come across 
the floor. Then she looked over the banister. 

* Did you come out of the room just now ? ' 
I said. 

" * No, your Reverence.* " 


" Well ; I made my theory of course. It was 
to the effect that she had moved in the room as 
I came out, that I therefore thought she was 
following me, and that the rest was simply 

" I got my breviary and came out. As I came 
into the little lobby, again there occurred to me the 
impression that some one was there, waiting in the 
corner. I looked round me ; there was nothing ; 
and I went upstairs. 

" Gentlemen ; do you know that nervous 
condition when one feels there is some one in the 
room ? It is generally dissipated in ten minutes' 
conversation. Well ; I was in that condition all 
the morning. But there was more than that. 

" It was not only that sense of some one there ; 
there were sounds now and then, very faint, but 
absolutely distinct, coming from all quarters 
sounds so minute and unimportant in themselves 
that I might have heard them a hundred times 
without giving them another thought, if they 
had not been accompanied by that sense of a 
presence with me. They were of all kinds. 
Once or twice a piece of woodwork somewhere in 
the room clicked, as my basket-chair had done 
a sharp minute rap such as one hears in damp 
weather. Once the door became unlatched and 


slid very softly with the sound of a hush over a 
piece of matting that lay there. I got up and shut 
the door again, looking, I must confess, for an 
instant on to the landing ; and as I came back to 
my chair, that clicked twice. 

" Gentlemen, I know this sounds absurd. 
You will be saying, as I said, that I was simply in 
a nervous condition. Very well, perhaps I was : 
but please wait. Once, as I sat in my chair 
drawn sideways near the fireplace a very slight 
movement caught my eye. I turned sharply ; 
it was no more than the fringe of the mat under 
the table lifting in the draught. As I looked it 

" Well ; my nerves got worse and worse. I 
stared every now and then round the room. 
There was nothing to be seen but the boards, the 
mats, the familiar furniture, the black and white 
crucifix over the mantelshelf, my few books, and 
the vestment-chest near the door. There were 
the curtains, too, hanging at the windows. That 
was all. It was a cloudy October day ; and 
rained a little about half-past twelve. I remember 
starting suddenly as a gust came and dashed the 
drops against the glass. 

" At about a quarter to one, Bridget came in to 
lay dinner. ... I am ashamed to say it, but I 


was extraordinarily relieved when I heard her open 
the downstairs door. (She came in, you remem- 
ber, three or four times a day to see after me : 
otherwise I was alone in the house.) 

" When she came into the room I looked up at 
her. . . . She smiled at me, and then it seemed 
to me that her face took on it rather an odd 
expression. She stopped smiling, and before she 
set down the tablecloth and knives she looked 
round the room rather curiously, I thought. 

" ' Well, Bridget,' I said, ' what is it ? ' 

" There was just a moment before she answered. 

" * It is nothing, your Reverence,' she said. 

" Then she laid dinner. I dined, reading all the 
while ; and she brought in the dishes one by one. 
I am afraid I hurried rather over dinner. I made 
up my mind to go out for a long walk ; there was 
something else in my mind too well I may as 
well tell you it seemed to me that I should 
rather like to be out of the house before she was. 
Yes, it was cowardly ; but remember that all this 
while I was telling myself that I had an attack 
of the nerves, and that I had better not be alone 
except in the fresh air. 

" Well, nothing at all happened that afternoon. 
It seemed to me as I went over the moors that all 
sense of haunting had ceased ; I noticed first 


consciously that it had gone soon after leaving 
the outskirts of the village ; I was entirely happy 
and serene. 

" As I came back into sight of the village at 
dusk, and saw the lights shining over the hill, the 
uneasiness came on me again. It struck me 
vividly for the first time that a night spent alone 
in that house would be slightly uncomfortable. 
By this time, of course, too, the possibility of a 
connexion between my present state and my other 
experiences had occurred to my mind ; but I had 
striven to resist this idea as merely one more 
nervous suggestion. 

" My uneasiness grew greater still as I came up 
the street. I am ashamed to say that I stopped to 
talk three or four times to my parishioners simply 
out of that unaccountably strong terror of my own 
house. I noticed too, across the street that a 
face peeped from Bridget's window and drew back 
on seeing me. A moment later the door opened 
and she came out. 

" I did not turn or wait for her ; but as I 
reached my door I was conscious of a very dis- 
tinct relief that she was behind me ; and as I 
went in she came immediately after me. 

4 1 am very sorry, Father,' she said, " I haven't 
your tea ready yet." 


" I told her to bring it as soon as she could, 
and went slowly upstairs with the horror deepening 
at every step. I knew perfectly well now why she 
had waited : it was that she did not like to enter 
the empty house alone. . . . Yet I did not feel 
that I could ask her what it was that she feared. 
That would be a kind of surrender on my part 
an allowing to myself that there was something 
to fear ; and you must remember that I still was 
trying to tell myself that it was all nerves.'* 

The Rector leaned forward. 

" I am very sorry, Father Girdlestone," he said 
softly ; " but it is past time for night-prayers." 
He paused. " But may we make an exception 
to-night, and hear the rest afterwards ? " 

The old man stood up, and motioned with a 
little smile towards the chapel gallery. 


" As I went forward into the room," began the 
old man again, as soon as we had taken our seats 
in silence, " I knew beyond doubt that I was 
accompanied. I heard Bridget moving about 
downstairs ; but it was as sound heard through 
the roar of a train. There went with me 
something resembling a loud noise interior, you 


understand, yet on the brink of manifestation 
in the world of sense or you may call it a black- 
ness, or a vast weight as heavy as heaven and 
earth and it was all centred round a person- 
ality. It was of such a nature that I should have 
been surprised at nothing. It appeared to me 
that all that I looked upon the serge curtains, 
my table, my chair, the glow of the fire on the 
hearth and the glimmer on the bare boards 
all these were but as melting shreds and rags 
hanging upon some monstrous reality. They 
were there they were just in existence ; but 
they were as accidents without substance. 

" I do not know if there were definite sounds 
or not -or even definite appearances beyond 
the normal material sounds and sights. There 
may have been ; but I do not think so. 

" I went across the room, walking, it seemed 
to me, on nothingness. My body was still in 
sensible relations with matter, but it seemed to 
me that I was not. I found my chair and sat 
down in it to wait. I was nerveless now, sunk 
in a kind of despair that I cannot hope to make 
plain to you. I imagine that a lost soul on the 
edge of death must be in that state. 

" I looked almost vacantly round the room once 
or twice ; but there was nothing. I understood 


without consideration what was happening, and 
the general course of events. It was all one, I 
perceived now. That which had started up at 
the rock which had invaded first the innermost 
chamber of my soul, and then the intellectual 
plane, and had established itself there, had now 
taken its final step forward, and was claiming 
the world of sense as well. I felt entirely power 
less. You will wonder why I did not go down- 
stairs to the Blessed Sacrament I do not know ; 
but it was impossible. Here was the battlefield, 
I knew very well. 

" I perceived something else too. It was the 
reason of the assaults. I did not fully understand 
it ; but I knew that the object was to drive me 
from the place to make the village and neigh- 
bourhood detestable to me. I knew that I 
could escape by going away ; yet it was not 
exactly a temptation I had no interior desire to 
escape. It was merely a question as to which 
force would prevail in my soul that which 
impelled me away, and grace which held me 
there. I was as a passive dummy between them. 

" I do not know how long it was before Bridget 
pushed open the door. I saw her with the tray 
come across the room and set it down upon my 
table. Then I saw her looking at me. 


" ' Bridget,' I said, ' I shall want no supper 
to-night. And tell the people that I am unwell 
and that there will be no night-prayers. There 
will be Mass, I hope, as usual, in the morning.' 

" I said these words, I believe ; but the voice was 
not as my own, it was as if another spoke. I 
saw her looking at me across the dusk with an 
extraordinary terror in her face. 

" ' Come away, Father,' she whispered. 

" I shook my head. 

" ' Come away,' she whispered again ; ' this is 
not a good house to be in.' 

" I said nothing. 

" ' Shall I fetchFatherDonovantoyou,Father,' 
she whispered, ' or the doctor ? ' 

' Fetch no one,' I said to her. ' Tell no one 
Ask for prayers, if you will. Go and leave me to 
myself, Bridget.' 

" I think I understood even then what the 
struggle was she was going through. I do not 
know if she perceived all that I perceived ; but 
even from her face, without her words, I knew 
that she was conscious of something. Yet she 
did not like to leave me alone. She stood per- 
fectly still, looking first at me, then slowly round 
the room ; then back at me again. And as she 
looked the dusk fell veil on veil. 


"Then something happened: I do not know 
what ; I never questioned her afterwards ; but 
she was gone ; I heard her stumbling and 
moaning down the stairs. An instant later the 
street-door opened and banged, and I was left 

" I cannot tell you what I felt. I knew only 
that the crisis was come, and that the result was 
out of my hands. I closed my eyes, I think, 
and lay right back in my chair. It was as if I was 
submitting myself to an operation ; I wondered 
vaguely as to what shape it would take. 

" All about the room I felt the force gathering. 
There was no oscillation, no vibration, but a steady 
continuous pressure concentrating itself within the 
four walls. With this the sense of the central 
personality grew every moment more and more 
intense and vivid. It seemed to me as if I were 
some tiny conscious speck of matter in the midst 
of a life whose vastness and malignance was 
beyond conception. At times it was this ; at 
other times it was as if I looked within and saw 
a space full of some indescribable blackness a 
space of such a nature that I could not tell whether 
it was as tiny as a pinhole or as vast as infinity. 
It was spaceless space, sheer emptiness, but with 


an emptiness that was a horror; and it was 
within me. 

" Yet it was not simple spirit it was not the 
correlative of matter. It was rather spirit in the 
very throes of manifestation in matter. 

" Sometimes then I attended to this ; some- 
times I lay with every sense at full stretch at a 
tenseness that seemed impossible, directed out- 
wards. I cannot tell even now whether the 
room was poised in deathly silence, or in an 
indescribable clamour and roar of tongues. It 
was one or the other ; or it was both at once. 

" Or to take the sense of sight. Although my 
eyes were closed every detail of the room was 
before me. Sometimes I saw it as rigid as a 
man at grips with death, in a kind of pallor 
the table, the dying fire, the-ttacurtained windows 
all in the pallor the very names of the books 
visible all, as it were, striving to hold themselves 
in material being under the stress of some enor- 
mous destructive force with which they were 
charged as rigid and as silent and as significant 
as an electric wire and as full of power. Or at 
times all seemed to me to have gone, simply to 
have dissolved into nothingness, as a breath 
fades on a window to retain but a phantom of 


" Well, well words are very useless gentlemen ; 
they are poor things " 

The old priest paused a moment, leaning for- 
ward in his chair with his thin veined hands 
together. For myself I cannot say what I felt. 
I seemed to be in somewhat of the state as that 
which he was describing : all my senses too were 
stretched to the full by the intensity of my 
attention. Yet the narrator seemed little affected ; 
he leaned and looked peacefully into the fire, and 
I caught the glint of light on his deep eyes. 
Then he leaned back, and went on. 

" Now you must picture to yourselves, gentle- 
men, that this state grew steadily in its energy. 
I did not know before and I can scarcely believe 
it now that human nature could bear so much. 
Yet I seemed to myself to be observing my 
strained faculties from a plane apart from them. 
It was as the owner of a besieged castle might 
stand on a keep and watch the figures of his men 
staring out over the battlements at a sight he 
could not see. There were my eyes looking, my 
ears listening, even the touch of my fingers on 
the chair arms questioning what it was that they 
held : and there was I my very self far within 
waiting for communications. 

" I suppose that I knew there was no escape. 


I could not descend into the sphere of reason, 
for another power held the keys ; I could not 
sink again to the inner presence of God, for that 
chamber too was occupied ; there was this last 
stand to be made the world of sense. If that 
was lost, all was lost : and I could not lift a finger 
to help. And, as I said, the strain grew greater 
each instant, as the opening swell of an organ 
waxes with a long steady crescendo to its final 

" I do not know at exactly what point I under- 
stood the assault : but it became known to me 
presently that what was intended was to merge the 
world of sense, so far as I was concerned, into this 
mighty essence of evil to burst through, or 
rather to transcend the material. Then, I knew, 
I should be wholly lost. I remember too that I 
perceived soon after this that this was what the 
world calls madness. And I understood at 
this moment, as never before, how that process 
consummates itself. It begins, as mine did, with 
the carrying of the inner life by storm ; that may 
come about by deliberate acquiescence in sin 
I should suppose that it always does in some 
degree. Then the intellect is attacked it may 
only be in one point a ' delusion ' it is called ; 
and with many persons regarded only as eccentric 


the process goes no further. But when the 
triumph is complete, the world of sense too is 
lost and the man raves. I knew at that time 
for absolute fact that this is the process. The 
' delusions ' of the mad are not non-existent 
they are glimpses, horrible or foul or fantastic, 
of that strange world that we take so quietly for 
granted, that at this moment and at every moment 
is perpetually about us foaming out its waters 
in lust or violence or mad irresponsible blasphemy 
against the Most High. 

" Well, I saw that this was what threatened ; 
yet I could not move a finger. No thought of 
flight entered my mind. All had gone too far by 

" Then, gentlemen, the climax came." 

Again the old priest was silent. 

I heard Monsignor's pipe drop with a clatter ; 
and my nerves thrilled like a struck harp. He 
made no movement to pick it up. He stared only 
at the old man. 

Then the quiet voice went on. 

" This was the climax, gentlemen. The 
intensity swelled and swelled each moment I 
thought must be the last the utmost effort of 
hell. Then with a crash the full close sounded ; 
and through the rending tear through the veil 


of matter that whirled away and was gone I 
caught one swift glimpse of all that lay beneath. 
It was not through one sense that I perceived it ; 
it was through perception pure and simple. 
Well how can I say it ? It was this. I 
perceived two vast forces pressed one against 
the other, as silent and as rigid as as the glass of 
a diver's helmet against the huge incumbent 
glimmering water. It is a wretched simile 
let us say that the appearance was as the meeting 
of fire and water without mist or tumult. The 
forces were absolutely opposed absolutely alien 
yet absolutely one in the plane of being. They 
could meet as the created and uncreated could 
not as flesh and spirit cannot. They met, level, 
coincident each rigid to breaking point each 
full of an energy to which there is no parallel in 
this world. 

" It seemed to me that all had waited for this. 
The enemy had been permitted to stand in the 
gate ; and at the instant of his triumph the fire 
of God was upon him, locked in the embrace 
of utter repulsion. 

" And it was given to me to watch that, gentle- 
men. On the edge of what the world labels as 
madness, at the very instant that I hung balanced 
on that line, I saw that endless war of spirit and 


spirit which has been raging since Michael drove 
Satan from heaven that ceaseless untiring 
conflict in which all that is not for God is 
against Him, seeking to dethrone and annihilate 
Him who gave it being. Ah ! words words 
but I saw it." 

There was a dead silence in the room. The 
priest drew one breath. 

" Then I saw no more. I was in my chair as 
before, holding the arms ; and the room round 
me stole back into being through the pallor of a 
phantom, to the dusk of earthly twilight ; and I 
perceived that my eyes were closed and not 

" There then I stayed, knowing that the war 
still raged beneath, yet fainter every moment as 
the tide crawled back, contesting inch by inch, 
rolled back by that remorseless power. Twice or 
three times I heard the murmur of sound in the 
room ; the serge curtains swayed I could hear 
them I heard the door vibrating softly : then 
once more the quiet silence was there, and I 
heard the ashes slip by their weight from grate 
to fender. Matter at last was itself again ; then 
once more, as into my intellect the light stole 
back, and I knew that God reigned and that His 
Son was incarnate, crucified and risen by many 


irrefragable proofs, round the house I could hear 
the murmuring of voices, and see through closed 
eye-lids of utter repose the glimmer of lanterns on 
the ceiling. 

" Within myself too I watched the rout of evil ; 
I drew breath after breath, deep and life-giving, 
as far down within the secret chambers of my 
soul the foul filth ebbed and sank and that spring 
rising into life everlasting, of which our Saviour 
spoke, welled up in its stead, filling every cranny 
and corner of my soul with that strange sweetness, 
so sweet and so dear that we forget it as the 
very air we breathe. The murmur of conflict 
was infinitely far away ; and it seemed to me 
that once more I went down, down, in that in- 
troversion of which I spoke just now, seeing all 
clean and sweet about me, down into the presence 
of the Lord who rules Heaven and earth at His 
will. Then a door closed, deep, deep below ; and 
I knew that the enemy was gone. 

" Well, gentlemen," said the priest after a pause, 
leaning back, " that is really the story. But there 
are a few details to add. 

" When the men that Bridget had fetched came 
upstairs, they found me asleep ; but, they told 
me afterwards, there were streaks of foam at the 


corners of my mouth. Yet she was not gone 
three minutes. 

" I never spoke a word to them of what hap- 
pened they knew quite enough for laymen. 
We had night-prayers as usual that evening. I 
said the Visita quaesumus Domine at the end. 

" I slept like a child ; and I said a mass of 
thanksgiving next day/' 

Father Brent broke the silence that followed. 
His voice seemed strange. 

" And the church, Father ? " 

The old priest smiled at him full. 

' You have guessed it," he said. " Yes : the 
church was built thirty years later. It is a 
basilica, as I said ; it presents our Lord in glory 
in an apse. It stands curiously enough on the 
rock ; but it is in the middle of a huge colliery 
town and well I may as well say it there is a 
grated tribune above the high altar at one side, 
through which a convent of Poor Clares can assist 
at the Holy Sacrifice. Poor Clares ! I ceased 
to wonder at the assault as soon as the convent 
was built." 

He stood up smiling. 


Father Bianchi's Story 



Father Bianchi's Story 

T7ATHER BIANCHI, as the days went on, 

seemed a little less dogmatic on the 

theory that miracles (except of course 

those of the saints) did not happen. He was 

warned by Monsignor Maxwell that his turn was 

approaching to contribute a story ; and suddenly 

at supper he announced that he would prefer to 

get it over at once that evening. 

" But I have nothing to tell," he cried, expostu- 
lating with hands and shoulders, " nothing to tell 
but the nonsense of an old peasant woman." 

When we had taken our places upstairs, and the 
Italian had again apologized and remonstrated 
with raised eyebrows, he began at last ; and I 
noticed that he spoke with a seriousness that I 
should not have expected. 

" When I was first a priest," he said, " I was 
in the south of Italy, and said my first Mass in 
a church in the hills. The village was called 



" Is that true ? " asked Monsignor suddenly, 

The Italian grinned brilliantly. "Well, no," 
he said, " but it is near enough, and I swear to 
you that the rest is true. It was a village in the 
hills, ten miles from Naples. They have many 
strange beliefs there ; it is like Father Brent's 
Cornwall. All along the coast, as you know, 
they set lights in the windows on one night of the 
year ; because they relate that Our Lady once 
came walking on the water with her Divine 
Child, and found none to give her shelter. Well, 
this village that we will call Arripezza was not 
on the coast. It was inland, but it had its own 
superstitions to compensate it superstitions 
cursed by the Church. 

" I knew little of all this when I went there. I 
had been in the seminary until then. 

" The parrocho was an old man, but old ! He 
could say Mass sometimes on Sundays and feasts, 
but that was all, and I went to help him. There 
were many at my first Mass, as the custom is, and 
they all came up to kiss my hands when it was 

" When I came back from the sacristy again 
there was an old woman waiting for me, who 
told me that her name was Giovannina. I had 


seen her before, as she kissed my hands. She 
was as old as the parrocho himself I cannot tell 
how old yellow and wrinkled as a monkey. 

" She put five lire into my hands. 

" * Five Masses, Father,* she said, * for a soul 
in purgatory.' 

" ' And the name ? ' 

" * That does not matter,' she said, * and will 
you say them, my Father, at the altar of 
S. Espedito ? ' 

" I took the money and went off, and as I went 
down the church I saw her looking after me, as 
if she wished to speak, but she made no sign and 
I went home ; and I had a dozen other Masses 
to say, some for my friends, and a couple that the 
parrocho gave me, and those, therefore, I began 
to say first. When I had said the fifth of the 
twelve, Giovannina waited for me again at the 
door of the sacristy. I could see that she was 

" ' Have you not said them, my Father ? * 
she asked. * He is here still.* 

" I did not notice what she said, except the 
question, and I said No, I had had others to say 
first. She blinked at me with her old eyes a 
moment, and I was going on, but she stopped me 


" ' Ah ! Say them at once, Father,' she said ; 
' he is waiting.' 

" Then I remembered what she had said before, 
and I was angry. 

" * Waiting ! ' I said ; * and so are thousands 
of poor souls.' 

" * Ah, but he is so patient,' she said ; ' he has 
waited so long.' 

" I said something sharp, I forget what, but 
the parrocho had told me not to hang about and 
talk nonsense to women, and I was going on, but 
she took me by the arm. 

" ' Have you not seen him too, my Father ? ' 
she said. 

" I looked at her, thinking she was mad, but 
she held me by the arm and blinked up at me, 
and seemed in her senses. I told her to tell me 
what she meant, but she would not. At last I 
promised to say the Masses at once. The next 
morning I began the Masses, and said four of 
them, and at each the old woman was there close 
to me, for I said them at the altar of S. Espedito, 
that was in the nave, as she had asked me, and I 
had a great devotion to him as well, and she was 
always at her chair just outside the altar-rails. 
I scarcely saw her, of course, for I was a young 
priest and had been taught not to lift my eyes 


when I turned round, but on the fourth day I 
looked at her at the Orate fratres, and she was 
staring not at me or the altar, but at the corner 
on the left. I looked there when I turned, there 
was nothing but the glass-case with the silver 
hearts in it to S. Espedito. 

" That was on a Friday, and in the evening I 
went to the church again to hear confessions, 
and when I was done, the old woman was there 

" * They are nearly done, my Father,' she said, 
* and you will finish them to-morrow ? ' 

" I told her Yes, but she made me promise that 
whatever happened I would do so. 

" Then she went on, * Then I will tell you, my 
Father, what I would not before. I do not know 
the man's name, but I see him each day during 
Mass at that altar. He is in the corner. I have 
seen him there ever since the church was built.' 

" Well, I knew she was mad then, but I was 
curious about it, and asked her to describe him 
to me ; and she did so. I expected a man in a 
sheet or in flames or something of the kind, but it 
was not so. She described to me a man in a 
dress she did not know a tunic to the knees, 
bareheaded, with a short sword in his hand. Well, 
then I saw what she meant she was thinking 


of S. Espedito himself. He was a Roman soldier, 
you remember, gentlemen ? 

" c And a cuirass ? ' I said. ' A steel breast- 
plate and helmet ? ' 

" Then she surprised me. 

" ' Why, no, Father, he has nothing on his 
head or breast, and there is a bull beside 

" Well, gentlemen, I was taken aback by that. 
I did not know what to say." 

Monsignor leaned swiftly forward. 

" Mithras," he said abruptly. 

The Italian smiled. 

" Monsignor knows everything," he said. 

Then I broke in, because I was more interested 
than I knew. 

" Tell me, Monsignor, what was Mithras ? " 

The priest explained shortly. It was an Eastern 
worship, extraordinarily pure, introduced into 
Italy a little after the beginning of the Christian. 
Mithras was a god, filling a position not unlike 
that of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. 
He offered a perpetual sacrifice, and through 
that sacrifice souls were enabled to rise from 
earthly things to heavenly, if they relied upon 
it and accompanied that faith by works of dis- 
cipline and prayer. It was one of those shadows 


of reality, said the Canon, of which pagan religions 
are so full. 

" I beg your pardon, Father Bianchi," he ended. 

The Italian smiled again. 

" Yes, Monsignor," he said, " I know that now, 
but I did not know it for many years afterwards, 
and I know something else now that I did not 
know then. Well, to return. 

" I told my old woman that she was dreaming, 
that it could not be so, that there was no room 
for a bull in the corner, that it was a picture of 
S. Espedito that she was thinking of. 

" * And why did you not get the Masses said 
before ? ' I asked. 

" She smiled rather slyly at me then. 

" ' I did get five said once before,* she said, * in 
Naples, but they did him no good. And when 
once again I told the parrocho here, he told me to 
be off ; he would not say them.' 

" And she had waited for a young priest, it 
seemed, and had determined nbrto tell him the 
story till the Masses were said, and had saved up 
her money meanwhile. 

" Well, I went home, and got to talking with the 
old priest, and led him on, so that he thought 
that he had introduced the subject, and presently 
he told me that when the foundation of the church 


had been laid, forty years before, they had found 
an old cave in the hill, with heathen things in it. 
He knew no more than that about it, but he told 
me to fetch a bit of pottery from a cupboard, 
and he showed it me, and there was just the tail 
of a bull upon it, and an eagle." 

Monsignor leaned forward again. 

"Just so," he said, " and the bull was lying 

The Italian nodded, and was silent. 

We all looked at him. It seemed a tame 
ending I thought. Then Father Brent put our 
thoughts into words. 

" That is not all ? " he said. 

Father Bianchi looked at him sharply, and at 
all of us, but said nothing. 

" Ah ! that is not all," said the other again, 

" Bah ! " cried the Italian suddenly. " It 
was not all, if you will have it so. But the rest is 
madness, as mad as Giovannina herself. What 
I saw, I saw because she made me expect it. It 
was nothing but the shadow, or the light in the 
glass case." 

A perceptible thrill ran through us all. The 
abrupt change from contempt to seriousness was 
very startling. 


"Tell us, Father," said the English priest, 
" we shall think no worse of you for it. If it 
was only the shadow, what harm is there in telling 
it ?" 

" Indeed you must finish," went on Monsignor ; 
"it is in the contract." 

The Italian looked round again, frowned, smiled, 
and laughed uneasily. 

" I have told it to no one till to-day," he said, 
" but you shall hear it. But it was only the 
shadow you understand that ? " 

A chorus, obviously insincere, broke out from 
the room. 

" It was only the shadow, Padre Bianchi." 

Again the priest laughed shortly ; the smile 
faded, and he went on. 

" I went down early the next morning, before 
dawn, and I made my meditation before the 
Blessed Sacrament ; but I could not help looking 
across once or twice at the corner by S. Espedito's 
altar ; it was too dark to see anything clearly, 
but I could make out the silver hearts in the glass 
case. When I had finished, Giovannina came in. 

" I could not help stopping by her chair as I 
went to rest. 

" ' Is there anything there ? ' I asked. 

" She shook her head at me. 


" l He is never there till Mass begins/ she said. 

" The sacristy door that opens out of doors 
was set wide as I came past it in my vestments ; 
and the dawn was coming up across the hills, all 

Monsignor murmured something, and the priest 

" I beg your pardon," said Monsignor, " but 
that was the time the sacrifice of Mithras was 

" When I came out into the church," went on 
the priest, " it was all grey in the light of the 
dawn, but the chapels were still dark. I went 
up the steps, not daring to look in the corner, and 
set the vessels down. As I was spreading the 
corporal, the server came up and lighted the 
candles. And still I dared not look. I turned 
by the right and came down, and stood waiting 
till he knelt beside me. 

" Then I found I could not begin. I knew 
what folly it was, but I was terribly frightened. 
I heard the server whisper, In nomine Patris. . . . 

" Then I shut my eyes tight ; and began. 

" Well, by the time I had finished the prepara- 
tion, I felt certain that something was watching 
me from the corner. I told myself, as I tell my- 
self now," snapped the Italian fiercely, " I told 


myself it was but what the woman had, {told me. 
And then at last I opened my eyes to go up the 
steps but I kept them down ; and only saw the 
dark corner out of the side of my eyes. 

" Then I kissed the altar and began. 

"Well, it was not until the Epistle that I 
understood that I should have to face the corner 
at the reading of the Gospel ; but by then I do 
not think I could have faced it directly, even if 
I had wished. 

" So when I was saying the Munda cor in the 
centre, I thought of a plan ; and as I went to 
read the Gospel I put my left hand over my eyes, 
as if I was in pain, and read the Gospel like that. 
And so all through the Mass I went on ; I always 
dropped my eyes when I had to turn that way 
at all ; and I finished everything and gave the 

" As I gave it, I looked at the old woman, and 
she was kneeling there, staring across at the 
corner ; so I knew that she was still dreaming 
she saw something. 

" Then I went to read the Last Gospel." 

The priest was plainly speaking with great 
difficulty ; he passed his hands over his lips once 
or twice. We were all quiet. 

" Well, gentlemen courage came to me then ; 


and as I signed the altar I looked straight into the 

He stopped again ; and began resolutely once 
more ; but his voice rang with hysteria. 

" Well, gentlemen, you understand that my 
head was full of it now, and that the corner was 
dark, and the shadows were very odd." 

" Yes, yes, Padre Bianchi," said Monsignor, 
easily, " and what did the shadows look like ? " 

The Italian gripped the arms of the chair, and 
screamed his answer : 

" I will not tell you, I will not tell you. It was 
but the shadow. My God, why have I told you 
the tale at all ? " 

Father Jenks' Tale 

Father Jenks' Tale 

I HAVE not yet had occasion to describe 
Father Jenks, the Ontario priest ; partly, 
I think, because he had not previously 
distinguished himself by anything but silence ; 
and partly because he was so true to his type 
that I had scarcely noticed even that. 

It was not until the following evening, when 
he was seated in the central chair of the group, 
that I really observed him sufficiently to take in 
his characteristics with any definiteness and to 
see how wholly he was American. He was clean- 
shaven ; with a heavy mouth, square jaw, and 
an air of something that I must call dulness, 
relieved only by a spark of alertness in each of his 
eyes, as he leaned back and began his story. He 
spoke deliberately, in an even voice, and as he 
spoke looked steadily a little above the fire ; his 
hands lay together on his right knee which was 
crossed over his left ; and I noticed a large elastic- 
sided boot cocked toward the warmth. I knew 
that he had passed a great part of his early life 

u-(jooo) 163 


in England ; and I was not surprised to observe 
that he spoke with hardly a trace of American 
accent or phraseology. 

" I, too, am a man of one story," he said ; 
" and I daresay you may think it not worth 
the telling. But it impressed me." 

He looked round with heavy, amused eyes as 
if to apologize. 

" It was when I was in England in the 
eighties. I was in the Cots wolds. You know 
them perhaps ? " 

Again he looked round. Monsignor Maxwell 
jerked the ash off his cigarette impatiently. This 
American's air of leisure was a little tiresome. 

" I lived in a cottage," went on the other, " at 
the edge of Minchester, not two hundred yards 
from the old church. My own schism shop, as 
the parson called it once or twice in the local 
paper, was a tin building behind my house it 
was not beautiful. It was a kind of outlandish 
stranger beside the church ; and the parson 
made the most of that. I never was able to 
understand ." 

He broke off again, and pressed his lips in a 
reminiscent smile. 

" Now all that part of the Cots wolds is like a 
table : it is flat at the top with steep sides sloping 


down into the valleys. The great houses stand 
mostly half-way down these slopes. It is too 
windy on the top for their trees and gardens. The 
Dominicans have a house a few miles from Min- 
chester, up one of the opposite hills, and I would 
go across there to my confession on Saturday, 
and stay an hour or two over tea, talking to one 
of them. It was there that I heard the tale of 
the house I am going to speak about. 

" This was a house that stood not two miles 
from my own village a great place, built half- 
way down one of the slopes. It had been a 
Benedictine house once, though there was little 
enough of that part left ; most of it was red-brick 
with twisted chimneys, but on the lawn that 
sloped down toward the wood and the stream 
at the bottom of the valley there was the west 
arch of the nave still standing with the doorway 
beneath and a couple of chapels on either side. 

Mrs. er Arbuthnot we will call her, if you 

please had laid it out with a rockery beneath ; 
and once I saw her, from the hill behind, drinking 
tea with her friends in one of the chapels. 

"Then the dining-room, I heard from the 
Dominicans, had been the abbot's chapel. This, 
too, was what they told me. The house had been 
shut up for forty years, and had a bad name. 


It had once been a farm ; but things had 
happened there : the sons had died ; a famous 
horse bred there had broken its neck somehow on 
the lawn. Then another family had taken it from 
the owner ; and the only son of the lot too had 
died ; and then folks began to talk about a 
curse ; and the oldest inhabitant was trotted 
out as usual to make mischief and gossip ; and 
the end was the house was shut up. 

" Then the owner had built on to it. He pulled 
down a bit more of the ruins, meaning to live in 
it himself ; and then his son went up." 

The Canadian smiled with one corner of his 

" This is what I heard from the Dominicans, 
you know." 

Father Brent looked up swiftly. 

" They are right though," he said. " I know 
the house and others like it." 

" Yes, Father," said the other priest. " Your 
island has its points." 

He recrossed his legs and drew out his pipe and 

" Well, as this priest says, there are other 
houses like it. Otherwise I could scarcely tell 
this tale. It's too ancient and feudal to happen 
in my country." 


He paused so long to fill his pipe that Father 
Maxwell sighed aloud. 

" Yes, Monsignor," said the priest without 
looking up. " I am going on immediately." 

He put his pipe into the corner of his mouth, 
took out his matches, and went on. 

" Well, Mrs. Arbuthnot had taken the house a 
year before I came to Minchester. She was what 
the Dominicans called a frivolous woman ; but 
I called her real solid before the end. What they 
meant was that she had parties down there and 
tea in the chapel, and a dresser with blue plates 
where the altar used to stand in the abbot's 
time, and a vestment for her fire-screen, and 
all that ; and a couple of chestnuts that she used 
to drive about the country with, and a groom in 
boots, and a couple of fellows with powdered 
hair to help her in and out. 

" Well, I saw all that at a garden party she 
gave ; and I must say we got on very well. I had 
seen her before once or twice out of my window 
on Sunday morning going along with a morocco 
prayer-book with a cross on it, and a bonnet on 
the back of her head. Then I showed her round 
the old church one day with some visitors of hers, 
and she left a card on me next day. 

"On the day of the garden party I saw the 


house, and the blue china and the rest, and she 
asked me what I thought of it all, and I said it 
was very nice ; and she asked me whether I 
thought it wrong, with a sort of cackle ; and I 
told her she had better follow her own religious 
principles and let me follow mine, and not have 
any exchanges. She told me then I was a sensible 
man, and she called up her son to introduce us. 
He was a fellow of twenty or so, a bright lad, up 
at Oxford. He was just engaged to be married, 
too ; that was why they had the party ; and 
when I saw his girl, I thought things looked pretty 
unwholesome for the old house ; and I think I 
said so to the old lady. She thought me more 
sensible than ever after that, and I heard her 
telling another old body what I had said." 

The Canadian paused again to strike a match ; 
and I saw the corners of his mouth twitching, 
either with the effort to draw, or with amuse- 
ment I scarcely knew which. When the pipe 
was well alight, he went on : 

" It was on the last Sunday of September that 
year that I heard the young man was ill and that 
the marriage was put off. I remember it well, 
partly because they were having a high time at 
the church, decorating it all for Michaelmas, 
which was next day, with the parson pretending 


it was for Harvest Festival, as they always do. 
I had seen the pumpkins go in the day before, 
and wondered where they put them all. I went 
up to the churchyard after Mass to have a look, 
and was nearly knocked down by the parson. I 
began to say something or other, but he ran past 
me, through from the vicarage, with his coat-tails 
flying and his man after him. But I stopped 
the man, and got out of him that Archie was ill ; 
and that the parson was sent for. 

" Well, then I went back home and sat down." 

The priest drew upon his pipe in silence a 
moment or two. 

I felt rather impressed. His airy manner of 
talking was shot now with a kind of seriousness ; 
and I wondered what was coming next. 

He went on almost immediately. 

" I heard a bit more as the day wore on. One 
of my people stayed after Catechism to tell me 
that the young man was worse, that a doctor had 
come from Stroud, and another had been wired 
for from London. 

" Well, I waited. I thought I knew what would 
happen. I thought I had seen a bit more in the 
old lady than the Dominicans had seen ; but what 
I was going to say to her I knew no more than the 


" Then, that night as I was going to bed I had 
just said matins and lauds for Michaelmas day 
the message came. 

" I was half-way upstairs when I heard a knock- 
ing at the door ; and I went down again and 
opened it. There was one of the fellows there I 
had seen on the box of the carriage ; and he was 
out of breath with running. He had a lantern in 
his hand ; because there was a thick mist that 
night, up from the valley. 

" He gave me the lady's compliments ; and 
would I step down ? Master Archie was ill. 
That was all." 

" Well, in a minute we were off into the thick 
of the mist. I took nothing with me but my stole, 
for it was not a proper sick-call. We said little 
or nothing to each other. He just told me that 
Master Archie had been taken ill about ten o'clock, 
quite suddenly. He didn't know what it was." 

The priest paused again for a moment. 

Then he went on, almost apologetically. 

" You know how it is, gentlemen, when 
something runs in your head. It may be a 
tune or a sentence. And I don't know if 
you've noticed how strong it is sometimes when 
you have something on your mind. 

" Well, what ran in my head was a bit of the 


Office I had just said. It was this I have never 
forgotten it since Stetit Angelus juxta aram 
templi habens thuribulum aureum in manu sua." 

He said it again ; and then added : 

" It comes frequently in the Office, you remem- 
ber. It was very natural to remember it." 

" Well, in half-an-hour we were at the top of 
the hill above the house. I think there must 
have been a moon, because we could see the mist 
round us like smoke ; but nothing of the house, 
nor even the lights in the top floors below us 
It was all white and misty. 

" Then we started down through the iron gate 
and the plantation. I could have lost my way 
again and again but for the fellow with me ; 
and still we saw nothing of the house till we were 
close to it on one side ; and then I looked up and 
saw a window like a great yellow door overhead. 

" We came round to the front of the house ; 
and there was a carriage there drawn up, with the 
lamps smoking in the mist, and as we came up I 
saw that the horses were steaming and blowing. 
He had just brought the London doctor from 
Stroud and was waiting for orders, I suppose." 

The Canadian paused again. 

I was more interested than ever.^His descrip- 
tions had become queerly particular ; and I 


wondered why. I did not understand yet. The 
rest too were very quiet. 

" We went in through the hall past the stuffed 
bear that held the calling cards and all that, you 
know ; and then turned in to the left to the big 
dining-room that had been the abbot's chapel. 
Some fool had left the window open I suppose 
they were too flurried to think of it. At any 
rate, the mist had got in, and made the gas-jets 
overhead look high up like great stars. 

" There was a door open upstairs somewhere, 
and I could hear whispering. 

" Well, we went up the staircase that opened 
on one side below the gallery that they had put 
up above the eastern end. The footpace was 
still there, you know, below the gallery, and the 
sideboard stood there. 

" We came out onto the gallery presently, and 
my man stopped. 

" Then some one came out with Mrs. Arbuth- 
not, and the door closed. She saw me standing 
there and I thought she was going to scream ; 
but the fellow with her in the fur coat he was 
the London doctor, I heard afterwards took her 
by the arm. 

" Well, she was quiet enough then, but as white 
as death. She had her bonnet on still, just as she 


must have put it on to go to church with in the 
morning when the young man was taken ill. 
She beckoned me along and I went. 

" As I was going past the doctor he first shook 
his head at me and then whispered, as I went on, 
to keep her quiet. I knew there was no hope 
then for Archie, and I was sorry, very sorry, 

The priest shook his own head meditatively 
once or twice, leaned forward and spat accurately 
into the heart of the fire. 

" Well, it was a big room that I went into, and, 
to tell the truth, I left the door open this time, 
because I was startled by the screen at the bed and 
all that. 

" The screen stood in the corner by the window 
to keep off the draught, and the bed to one side 
of it. I could just catch a glimpse of the lad's 
face on the pillow and the local doctor close by 
him. There was a woman or two there as well. 

" But the worst was that the lad was talking 
and moaning out loud ; but I didn't attend to 
him then, and, besides, Mrs. Arbuthnot had gone 
through by another door and I went after her. 

" It was a kind of dressing-room Archie's 
perhaps. There was a tall glass and silver things 
on the table by the window, and a candle or 


two burning. She turned round there and faced 
me, and she looked so deathly that I forgot all 
about the lad for the present. I just looked out 
to catch her when she fell. I had seen a woman 
like that once or twice before. 

" Well, she said all that I expected all about 
the curse and that, and the sins of the fathers, 
and it was all her fault for taking the beastly 
place, and how she would swear to clear out I 
couldn't get a word in and at last she said she'd 
become a Catholic if the boy lived. 

" I did get a word in then, and told her not to 
talk nonsense. The Church didn't want people 
like that. They must believe first, and so on 
and all the while I was looking out to catch her. 

" Well, she didn't hear a word I said, but she 
sat down all of a sudden, and I sat down too, 
opposite her, and all the while the boy's voice 
grew louder and louder from the next room. 

" Then she started again, but she hadn't been 
under way a minute before I had given over 
attending to her. I was listening to the lad." 

The priest stopped again abruptly. His pipe 
had gone out, but he sucked at it hard and seemed 
not to notice it. His eyes were oddly alert. 

" As I was listening I looked toward the door 
into the next room. Both that and the one with 


the gallery over the hall were open, and I saw 
the mist coming in like smoke. 

" I couldn't catch every word the lad said. He 
was talking in a high droning voice, but I caught 
enough. It was about a face looking at him 
through smoke. 

* His eyes are like flames,' he said, * smoky 
flames yellow hair Are you a priest ? . . . 
What is that red dress ? 'things like that. 
Well, it seemed pretty tolerable nonsense, and 
then I " 

Monsignor Maxwell sat up suddenly. 

" Good Lord ! " he said. 

" Yes," drawled the Canadian. " stetit Angelus 
habens thuribulum aureum." 

He spoke so placidly that I was almost 

shocked. It seemed astonishing that a man 

Then he went on again : 

" Well, I stood up when I heard that, and I 
faced the old lady. 

" ' What's the dedication of the chapel,' I said. 
' What's the saint ? Tell me, woman, tell me ! ' 
There ! I said it like that. 

"Well, she didn't know what I meant, of 
course, but I got it out of her at last. Of course, 
it was St. Michael's. 

" 1 sat down then and let her chatter on. I 


suppose I must have looked a fool, because she 
took me by the shoulder directly. 

" ' You aren't listening, Father Jenks,' she said. 

" I attended to her then. It seemed as if she 
wanted me to do something to save him, but I 
don't think she knew what it was herself, and I'm 
sure I didn't, not at first at least. 

" Then she began again, and all the while the 
boy was crying out. She wanted to know if her 
becoming a Catholic would do any good, and to 
tell the truth I wasn't so sure then myself as I 
had been before. Then she said she'd give up the 
house to Catholics, and then at last she 
said this : 

" < Will you take it oif, Father ? I know you 
can. Priests can do anything.' 

" ' Well, I stiffened myself up at that. I was 
sensible enough not to make a fool of myself, and 
I said something like this." 

He stopped again ; sucked vigorously at his 
cold pipe. 

" I said something like this : ' Mind you 
keep your promise,' I said, ' but as far as I am 
concerned, I'd let him off.' " 

A curious rustle passed round the room, and 
the priest caught the sound. 

" Yes, gentlemen, I said that. I did indeed, and 


I guess most of you gentlemen would have done 
the same in my circumstances. 

" And this is what happened. 

" First the lad's voice stopped, then there was 
a whispering, then a footstep in the other room, 
and the next moment Mrs. Arbuthnot was on 
her feet, with her mouth opened to scream. I 
had her down again though in time, and, when 
I turned, a woman was at the door and I could 
see she had closed the outer door through which 
the mist came. 

" Well, her face told us. The lad had taken the 
right turn. It was something on the brain, I 
think, that had dispersed or broken, or something 
I forget now but it seemed to come in pat 
enough, didn't it, gentlemen ? " 

The Canadian stopped and leaned back. Was 
that the end, then ? 

Father Brent put my question into words. 

" And what happened ? " 

" Well," added the other, drawling more than 
ever, " Mrs. Arbuthnot did not keep her promise. 
She's there still, for all I know, and attends the 
Harvest Festivals as regular as ever. That spoils 
the story, doesn't it ? " 

" And the son ? " put in the English priest 


"Well, the son was a bit better. That 
marriage did not take place. The girl broke 
it off." 

" Well ? " 

" And Archie's at the English College at this 
moment studying for the priesthood. I had tea 
with him at Aragno's yesterday." 


Father Martin's Tale 

i a <*xx 


Father Martin's Tale 

THE Father Rector announced to us one 
day at dinner that a friend of his from 
England had called upon him a day or 
two before ; and that he had asked him to supper 
that evening. 

" There is a story I heard him tell," he said, 
" some years ago, that I think he would 
contribute if you cared to ask him, Monsignor. 
It is remarkable ; I remember thinking so." 
" To-night ? " said Monsignor. 
' Yes ; he is coming to-night." 
" That will do very well," said the other, " we 
have no story for to-night." 

Father Martin appeared at supper ; a grey- 
haired old man, with a face like a mouse, and 
large brown eyes that were generally cast down. 
He had a way at table of holding his hands 
together with his elbows at his side that bore out 
the impression of his face. 



He looked up deprecatingly and gave a little 
nervous laugh as Monsignor put his request. 

"It is a long time since I have told it, 
Monsignor/' he said. 

" That is the more reason for telling it again," 
said the other priest with his sharp geniality, " or 
it may be lost to humanity." 

" It has met with incredulity," said the old 

" It will not meet with it here, then," remarked 
Monsignor. " We have been practising ourselves 
in the art of believing. Another act of faith will 
do us no harm." 

We explained the circumstances. 

Father Martin looked round ; and I could see 
that he was pleased. 

" Very well, Monsignor," he said, " I will do 
my best to make it easy." 

When we had reached the room upstairs, the 
old priest was put into the arm-chair in the centre, 
drawn back a little so that all might see him ; he 
refused tobacco, propped his chin on his two 
hands, looking more than ever like a venerable 
mouse, and began his story. I sat at the end of 
the semi-circle, near the fire, and watched him as 
he talked. 


" I regret I have not heard the other tales," 
he said ; "it would encourage me in my own. 
But perhaps it is better so. I have told this so 
often that I can only tell it in one way, and you 
must forgive me, gentlemen, if my way is not 

" About twenty years ago I had charge of a 
mission in Lancashire, some fourteen miles from 
Blackburn, among the hills. The name of the 
place is Monkswell ; it was a little village then, 
but I think it is a town now. In those days 
there was only one street, of perhaps a dozen 
houses on each side. My little church stood at 
the head of the street, with the presbytery beside 
it. The house had a garden at the back, with a 
path running through it to the gate ; and beyond 
the gate was a path leading on to the moor. 

" Nearly all the village was Catholic, and had 
always been so ; and I had perhaps a hundred 
more of my folk scattered about the moor. Their 
occupation was weaving ; that was before the 
coal was found at Monkswell. Now they have 
a great church there with a parish of over a 

" Of course, I knew all my people well enough ; 
they are wonderful folk, those Lancashire folk, 


I could tell you a score of tales of their devotion 
and faith. There was one woman that I could 
make nothing of. She lived with her two brothers 
in a little cottage a couple of miles away from 
Monkswell ; and the three kept themselves by 
weaving. The two men were fine lads, regular at 
their religious duties, and at Mass every Sunday. 
But the woman would not come near the church. 
I went to her again and again ; and before every 
Easter ; but it was of no use. She would not 
even tell me why she would not come ; but I 
knew the reason. The poor creature had been 
ruined in Blackburn, and could not hold up her 
head again. Her brothers took her back, and 
she had lived with them for ten years, and never 
once during that time, so far as I knew, had she 
set foot outside her little place. She could not 
bear to be seen, you see." 

The little pointed face looked very tender and 
compassionate now, and the brown, beady eyes 
ran round the circle deprecatingly. 

" Well, it was one Sunday in January that 
Alfred told me that his sister was unwell. It 
seemed to be nothing serious, he said, and of 
course he promised to let me know if she should 


become worse. But I made up my mind that I 
would go in any case during that week, and see 
if sickness had softened her at all. Alfred told 
me too that another brother of his, Patrick, on 
whom, let it be remembered " and he held up 
an admonitory hand " I had never set eyes, was 
coming up to them on the next day from London, 
for a week's holiday. He promised he would 
bring him to see me later on in the week. 

" There was a fall of snow that afternoon, not 
very deep, and another next day, and I thought 
I would put off my walk across the hills until 
it melted, unless I heard that Sarah was 

" It was on the Wednesday evening about six 
o'clock that I was sent for. 

" I was sitting in my study on the ground floor 
with the curtains drawn, when I heard the garden 
gate open and close, and I ran out into the hall, 
just as the knock came at the back door. I 
knew that it was unlikely that any should come 
at that hour, and in such weather, except for a 
sick-call ; and I opened the door almost before 
the knocking had ended. 

" The candle was blown out by the draught, 
but I knew Alfred's voice at once. 

" ' She is worse, Father,' he said, ' for God's 


sake come at once. I think she wishes for the 
Sacraments. I am going on for the doctor.' 

" I knew by his voice that it was serious, 
though I could not see his face ; I could only see 
his figure against the snow outside ; and before 
I could say more than that I would come at once, 
he was gone again, and I heard the garden door 
open and shut. He was gone down to the 
doctor's house, I knew, a mile further down 
the valley. 

" I shut the hall door without bolting it, and 
went to the kitchen and told my housekeeper to 
grease my boots well and set them in my room 
with my cloak and hat and muffler and my 
lantern. I told her I had had a sick-call and did 
not know when I should be back ; she had better 
put the pot on the fire and I would help myself 
when I came home. 

" Then I ran into the church through the 
sacristy to 'fetch the holy oils and the Blessed 

" When I came back, I noticed that one of the 
strings of the purse that held the pyx was frayed, 
and I set it down on the table to knot it properly. 
Then again I heard the garden gate open and 


The priest lifted his eyes and looked round 
again ; there was something odd in his 

" Gentlemen, we are getting near the point of 
the story. I will ask you to listen very carefully 
and to give me your conclusions afterwards. I 
am relating to you only events, as they 
happened historically. I give you my word 
as to their truth." 

There was a murmur of assent. 

" Well, then," he went on, " at first I supposed 
it was Alfred come back again for some reason. 
I put down the string and went to the door with- 
out a light. As I reached the threshold there 
came a knocking. 

" I turned the handle and a gust of wind burst 
in, as it had done five minutes before. There 
was a figure standing there, muffled up as the 
other had been. 

" ' What is it ? ' I said, ' I am just coming. Is 
it you, Alfred ? ' 

' No, Father,' said a voice the man was on 
the steps a yard from me ' I came to say that 
Sarah was better and does not wish for the 

" Of course I was startled at that. 


" ' Why ! who are you ? ' I said. ' Are you 
Patrick ? ' 

" ' Yes, Father/ said the man, ' I am Patrick.' 

" I cannot describe his voice, but it was 
not extraordinary in any way ; it was a little 
muffled : I supposed he had a comforter over his 
mouth. I could not see his face at all. I could 
not even see if he was stout or thin, the wind 
blew about his cloak so much. 

" As I hesitated, the door from the kitchen 
behind me was flung open, and I heard a very 
much frightened voice calling : 

" ' Who's that, Father ? ' said Hannah. 

" I turned round. 

" ' It is Patrick Oldroyd/ I said. ' He is come 
from his sister.' 

" I could see the woman standing in the light 
from the kitchen door ; she had her hands out 
before her as if she were frightened at something. 
' Go out of the draught,' I said. 

" She went back at that ; but she did not 
close the door, and I knew she was listening to 
every word. 

' Come in, Patrick,' I said, turning round 

" I could see he had moved down a step, and 
was standing on the gravel now. 


" He came up again then, and I stood aside 
to let him go past me into my study. But he 
stopped at the door. Still I could not see his 
face it was dark in the hall, you remember. 

'"No, Father,' he said, ' I cannot wait. I 
must go after Alfred/ 

" I put out my hand toward him, but he slipped 
past me quickly, and was out again on the gravel 
before I could speak. 

" ' Nonsense ! ' I said. ' She will be none the 
worse for a doctor ; and if you will wait a minute 
I will come with you/ 

" ' You are not wanted/ he said rather 
offensively, I thought. ' I tell you she is better, 
Father : she will not see you/ 

" I was a little angry at that. I was not 
accustomed to be spoken to in that way. 

" ' That is very well/ I said, ' but I shall come 
for all that, and if you do not wish to walk with 
me, I shall walk alone/ 

" He was turning to go, but he faced me again 

' Do not come, Father/ he said. ' Come 
to-morrow. I tell you she will not see you. You 
know what Sarah is/ 

' I know very well/ I said, ' she is out of 
grace, and I know what will be the end of her if 


I do not come. I tell you I am coming, Patrick 
Oldroyd. So you can do as you please.' 

" I shut the door and went back into my room, 
and as I went, the garden gate opened and shut 
once more. 

11 My hands trembled a little as I began to knot 
the string of the pyx ; I supposed then that I 
had been more angered than I had known " the 
old priest looked round again swiftly and dropped 
his eyes " but I do not now think that it was 
only anger. However, you shall hear." 

He had moved himself by now to the very 
edge of his chair where he sat crouched up with his 
hands together. The listeners were all very quiet. 

" I had hardly begun to knot the string before 
Hannah came in. She bobbed at the door when 
she saw what I was holding, and then came 
forward. I could see that she was very much 
upset by something. 

" ' Father,' she said, ' for the love of God do 
not go with that man.' 

' I am ashamed of you, Hannah,' I told her. 
' What do you mean ? ' 

' Father,' she said, ' I am afraid. I do not 
like that man. There is something the matter/ 

" I rose ; laid the pyx down and went to my 
boots without saying anything. 


" ' Father,' she said again, ' for the love of God 
do not go I tell you I was frightened when I 
heard his knock.' 

" Still I said nothing ; but put on my boots 
and went to the table where the pyx lay and the 
case of oils. 

" She came right up to me, and I could see that 
she was as white as death as she stared at me. 

" I finished putting on my cloak, wrapped the 
comforter round my neck, put on my hat and 
took up the lantern. 

" ' Father,' she said again. 

" I looked her full in the face then as she knelt 

" ' Hannah,' I said, ' I am going. Patrick has 
gone after his brother.' 

"'It is not Patrick,' she cried after me ; ' I 
tell you, Father " 

" Then I shut the door and left her kneeling 

" It was very dark when I got down the steps ; 
and I hadn't gone a yard along the path before 
I stepped over my knee into a drift of snow. It 
had banked up against a gooseberry bush. Well, 
I saw that I must go carefully ; so I stepped 
back on to the middle of the path, and held my 
lantern low. 


" I could see the marks of the two men plain 
enough ; it was a path that I had made broad on 
purpose so that I could walk up and down to 
say my office without thinking much of where I 

" There was one track on this side, and one 
on that. 

" Have you ever noticed, gentlemen, that a 
man in snow will nearly always go back over his 
own traces, in preference to any one else's ? Well, 
that is so : and it was so in this case. 

" When I got to the garden gate I saw that 
Alfred had turned off to the right on his way to 
the doctor ; his marks were quite plain in the 
light of the lantern, going down the hill. But I 
was astonished to see that the other man had not 
gone after him as he said he would ; for there 
was only one pair of footmarks going down 
the hill ; and the other track was plain enough, 
coming and going. The man must have gone 
straight home again, I thought. 

Now " 

" One moment, Father Martin," said Monsignor 
leaning forward ; " draw the two lines of tracks 
here." He put a pencil and paper into the 
priest's hands. 

Father Martin scribbled for a moment or two 


and then held up the paper so that we could all 
see it. 

As he explained I understood. He had drawn 
a square for the house, a line for the garden 
wall, and through the gap ran four lines, marked 
with arrows. Two ran to the house and two 
back as far as the gate ; at this point one curved 
sharply round to the right and one straight across 
the paper beside that which marked the coming. 

"I noticed all this/ 1 said the old priest 
emphatically, " because I determined to follow 
along the double track so far as Sarah Oldroyd's 
house ; and I kept the light turned on to it. 
I did not wish to slip into a snowdrift. 

" Now, I was very much puzzled. I had been 
thinking it over, of course, ever since the man 
had gone, and I could not understand it. I must 
confess that my housekeeper's words had not made 
it clearer. I knew she did not know Patrick ; 
he had never been home since she had come to 
me. I was surprised, too, at his behaviour, for 
I knew from his brother that he was a good 
Catholic ; and well, you understand, gentle- 
men it was very puzzling. But Hannah was 
Irish, and I knew they had strange fancies 

' Then, there was something else, which I had 


better mention before I go any further. Although 
I had not been frightened when the man came, 
yet, when Hannah had -said that she was 
frightened, I knew what she meant. It had 
seemed to me natural that she should be 
frightened. I can say no more than that." 

He threw out his hands deprecatingly, and 
then folded them again sedately on his hunched 

" Well, I set out across the moor, following 
carefully in the double track of of the man who 
called himself Patrick. I could see Alfred's 
single track a yard to my right ; sometimes 
the tracks crossed. 

" I had no time to look about me much, but I 
saw now and again the slopes to the north, and 
once when I turned I saw the lights of the village 
behind me, perhaps a quarter of a mile away. 
Then I went on again and I wondered as I went. 

" I will tell you one thing that crossed my 
mind, gentlemen. I did wonder whether Hannah 
had not been right, and if this was Patrick after 
all. I thought it possible though I must say I 
thought it very unlikely that it might be some 
enemy of Sarah's some one she had offended 
an infidel, perhaps, but who wished her to die 
without the Sacraments that she wanted. I 


thought that ; but I never dreamt of of what I 
thought afterwards and think now." 

He looked round again, clasped his hands more 
tightly and went on. 

" It was very rough going, and as I climbed up 
at last on to the little shoulder of hill that was 
the horizon from my house, I stopped to get my 
breath and turned round again to look behind me. 

" I could see my house-lights at the end of the 
village, and the church beside it, and I wondered 
that I could see the lights so plainly. Then I 
understood that Hannah must be in my study 
and that she had drawn the blind up to watch 
my lantern going across the snow. 

" I am ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that 
that cheered me a little ; I do not quite know why, 
but I must confess that I was uncomfortable 
I know that I should not have been, carrying 
what I did, and on such an errand, but I was 
uneasy. It seemed very lonely out there, and 
the white sheets of snow made it worse. I do 
not think that I should have minded the dark so 
much. There was not much wind and everything 
was very quiet. I could just hear the stream 
running down in the valley behind me. The 
clouds had gone and there was a clear night of 
stars overhead." 


The old priest stopped ; his lips worked a 
little, as I had seen them before, two or three 
times, during his story. Then he sighed, looked 
at us and went on. 

" Now, gentlemen, I entreat you to believe me. 
This is what happened next. You remember 
that this point at which I stopped to take breath 
was the horizon from my house. Notice that. 

" Well, I turned round, and lowered my 
lantern again to look at the tracks, and a yard 
in front of me they ceased. They ceased." 

He paused again, and there was not a sound 
from the circle. 

" They ceased, gentlemen. I swear it to you, 
and I cannot describe what I felt. At first I 
thought it was a mistake ; that he had leapt a 
yard or two that the snow was frozen. It was 
not so. 

" There a yard to the right were Alfred's tracks, 
perfectly distinct, with the toes pointing the way 
from which I had come. There was no confusion, 
no hard or broken ground, there was just the soft 
surface of the snow, the trampled path of of 
the man's footsteps and mine, and Alfred's a yard 
or two away." 

The old man did not look like a mouse now ; 
his eyes were large and bright, his mouth severe, 


and his hands hung in the air in a petrified 

" If he had leapt," he said, " he did not alight 

He passed his hand over his mouth once or 

" Well, gentlemen, I confess that I hesitated. 
I looked back at the lights and then on again at 
the slopes in front, and then I was ashamed of 
myself. I did not hesitate long, for any place 
was better than that. I went on ; I dared not 
run ; for I think I should have gone mad if I 
had lost self-control ; but I walked, and not too 
fast, either ; I put my hand on the pyx as it lay 
on my breast, but I dared not turn my head to 
right or left. I just stared at Alfred's tracks in 
front of me and trod in them. 

" Well, gentlemen, I did run the last hundred 
yards ; the door of the Oldroyds' cottage was 
open, and they were looking out for me and I 
gave Sarah the last Sacraments, and heard her 
confession. She died before morning. 

" And I have one confession to make myself 
I did not go home that night. They were very 
courteous to me when I told them the story, and 
made out that they did not wish me to leave their 


sister ; so the doctor and Alfred walked back 
over the moor together to tell Hannah I should 
not be back, and that all was well with me. 

" There, gentlemen." 

" And Patrick ? " said a voice. 

" Patrick of course had not been out that 

Mr. Bosanquet's Tale 


Mr. Bosanquet's Tale 

I THINK that it was on the second Sunday 
evening that Father Brent brought in his 
guest. There was a function of ^some kind 
at S. Silvestro I forget the occasion ; a Cardinal 
had given Benediction and a reception was to 
follow. At any rate there were only three of us 
at home, the German, Father Brent and myself. 
Of course we talked of our symposium, and the 
guest, a middle-aged layman, seemed to listen 
with interest, but he did not say very much. 
He was a brown-bearded man ; he ate slowly 
and deliberately, and I must confess that I was 
not particularly impressed with him. Neither 
did Father Brent try to draw him out. I noticed 
that he looked at him questioningly once or 
twice, but he did not actually express his 
thought till after a little speech from Father 

" But it is a little tiresome to me," said the 
German, " this talk of footsteps and voices and 
visions. If that world in which we believe is 



spiritual, as we know it is, how is it that it 
presents itself to us under material images ? 
These things are but appearances, but what 
is the reality ? " 

Father Brent turned to his friend. 

" WeU ? " he said, " what now ? " 

Mr. Bosanquet smiled and became grave again 
over his pastry. 

" You will repeat it then ? " persisted the priest. 

The Englishman looked up for an instant, and 
I met his grave eyes. 

" If these gentlemen really wish it," he said 

Father Brent sighed with satisfaction. 

" That is excellent," he said. 

Then he explained. 

Mr. Bosanquet had a story, it seemed, but had 
entirely refused to relate it to a mixed company. 
He had had a certain experience once which had 
changed his life and it was not an experience to 
be described at random. There was no ghost 
in it ; it was wholly unsensational, but it had, 
Father Brent thought, a peculiar interest of its 
own. He had persuaded his friend to sup with 
us, knowing that we should be but few, and hoping 
that the atmosphere might be found favourable. 
This was the gist of what he was saying, but he 


was interrupted by the entrance of Beppo with 
the coffee. 

" Shall we have coffee upstairs ? " he said. 

Then we rose and went upstairs. 

It was a few minutes before we settled down ; 
and Mr. Bosanquet seemed in no hurry to begin. 
But a silence fell presently, and finally the young 
priest leaned forward. 

" Now Bosanquet," he said. 

Mr. Bosanquet set his cup down, crossed his 
legs and began. He spoke in a very quiet, 
unemotional voice. 

" My friend has told you that this experience 
of mine is unsensational. In a manner of 
speaking he is right. It is unsensational, since 
it deals with nothing other than that which 
we must all go through sooner or later; but 
I think it has a certain interest from the fact 
that it is an experience of which, except under 
very peculiar circumstances, none of us will 
ever be able to give an account. It concerns 
the act of dying." 

He paused for a moment. 

" Yes ; the act of dying," he repeated, " for 
I firmly believe that that is precisely what I did. 
I passed the point on which death is dogmatically 


declared by the doctors to have taken place. I 
underwent, that is, what is called " legal death," 
but I did not of course reach that further state 
called " somatic death." 

Father Brent voiced my question. 

" Please explain," he said. 

" Oh well. The body, as we know, consists 
of cells ; but there is a certain unity, usually 
identified with the vital principle, which merges 
these into one entity so that if one member 
suffer all the members suffer with it. Legal 
death is when this vital principle leaves the body. 
The lungs cease to act ; the heart is motionless. 
But when this has taken place there yet remains 
a further stage. The cells, for a certain period, 
have a kind of life of their own. There is no 
vital union between them ; the nerve system is 
suspended ; and somatic death, marked by the 
rigor mortis, the stiffening of the cells, indicates 
the moment when the cells too, even individually, 
cease to live. But the man is dead, doctors 
tell us, sometimes many hours before rigor 
mortis sets in. In fact, in the case of some of 
the saints, rigor mortis appears never to have 
set in at all ; their limbs, we are told, retain soft- 
ness and elasticity. There is no corruption, at 
least in the ordinary sense." 


Father Stein grunted and nodded. 

" In my case," pursued the Englishman, *' I 
was declared dead, and, as I learned afterwards, 
remained in that state about half-an-hour. It 
was after my body had been washed and the 
face bound up, that I returned to life." 

I sat up in my chair at that. At least he was 
explicit enough. He glanced at me. 

" I can show you my death certificate, if you 
care to come to my hotel to-morrow," he said. 
" I obtained it from the doctor cancelled 
however, you understand. 

" Well this is what took place. 

" The cause of death was exhaustion, following 
upon angina pectoris with other complications. 
I will spare you the details, and begin at once at 
the point at which I was declared to be dying. 
Up to that point I had suffered extraordinary 
agony, tempered by morphia. I did not know 
that such pain was possible. . . . At the moments 
of the spasms, before each injection took effect, 
it seemed to me that I did not suffer pain, so 
much as become pain. There was no room for 
anything else but pain. Then there came the 
beginning of the dulness of it ; it retired and 
stood off from me. I was still conscious of it, as 
of a storm passing away, till all sank into a kind 


of peace. Then, after a long while as it seemed, 
the dulness lifted, and I came up again to the 
surface, becoming aware of the world, though of 
course this bore a certain aspect of unreality, 
owing to the effects of the drug. 

" Well, I said I would leave all that out. 

" The last time I came up, I knew I was dying. 
It was all quite different. Things no longer bore 
that close relation to me that they had had before. 
I opened my eyes just enough to let me see my 
hands lying out on the counterpane, and the 
hillock of my feet, and even the lower part of the 
brass supports at the end of my bed ; but I 
could not raise my eyelids higher ; and almost 
immediately I closed them again. 

" The sense of touch too was changed. 
Once or twice when I have been falling asleep in 
my chair I have noticed the same phenomenon. 
I could not tell by feeling unless I moved them 
whether my fingers rested on the counterpane 
or not. I did move them then, with that curious 
clawing motion that dying people use, simply 
in order to realize my relations with material 
surroundings. That of course, as I know now, 
is the reason of those motions. It is not an 
involuntary contraction of the muscles ; it is the 
will trying to get back into touch with the world. 


" But the sense of hearing, oddly enough, was 
almost preternaturally acute. Others under- 
going anaesthetics have told me the same. It is 
the last sense to leave them, and the first to 
return. I could hear a continual minute series of 
sounds not at all painfully loud, but absolutely 
distinct. There was my sister's breathing, 
irregular and uneven beside me. I knew by it 
that she was trying not to break down. I could 
hear four timepieces ticking her watch and the 
doctor's, and that of the travelling clock over the 
fire, and the Dutch clock in the hall below. Then 
there were the country sounds in the distance, and 
the breeze in the creepers outside my window. 

" With regard to taste and smell they were 
there a kind of sour sweetness, if I may say so 
but they did not interest me ; they were below 
my level, if I may express it like that. 

" Well, I said just now that I knew I was 
dying. It was as if through all my being there was 
a steady, smooth retirement from the world. I 
was perfectly able to reflect in fact I reflected as 
I have never been able before or since. Do you 
know the sensation of coming down from town 
and sitting out in the darkness after dinner in 
the garden ? The silence, after the clatter and 
glare of London makes it possible, seems to let 


the mind free. One is both alert and reflective 
both at once. One's thoughts are the immediate 
object of one's contemplation. It was rather 
like that, only far more pronounced. And in 
that freedom from the presence of matter I 
realized perfectly what was happening. 

" Now I must tell you at once that I was not at 
all frightened. My religion seemed to stand off 
from me with the rest of the world. I had been, 
up to that time, what may be called a ' con- 
ventional believer.' I had never doubted exactly 
for I always realized that it was absurd for me 
to criticize what was so obviously the highest 
standard of morality and faith I mean Christ- 
ianity. But neither was I particularly interested. 
I had lived like other people. I attended church, 
I repeated my prayers, and I had conventional 
views of heaven, with which was mixed up a 
good deal of agnosticism. In a word, I think I 
may say that I had Hope, but not Faith not 
Faith, that is, as you Catholics seem to have it." 

This was the first hint I had had that Mr. 
Bosanquet was not a Catholic, and I glanced up 
at Father Brent. He too glanced at me in a 
half warning, half suggestive look. I understood. 


" I was not frightened, then," continued the 
other tranquilly. " My religion, as I see now, was 
altogether bound up with the world. Even my 
thoughts went no further than images. I con- 
ceived of heaven as in a picture, of our Lord as 
a superhuman man, of death as of a swift passage 
through the air. We are all bound, of course, by 
our limitations to do that ; but I had not realized 
the inadequacy of such images. I conceived 
of Eternity and spiritual existence in terms of 
time and space, and I had not really even as 
much faith as that of the agnostic who recognizes 
that these are inadequate, and therefore foolishly 
believes that the reality is unknowable though 
in one sense indeed it is." 

Once more the German priest murmured ; 
and I saw now why this man had been encouraged 
to tell his story. 

" Well then," he continued, " when the world 
retired from me with the approach of death, my 
religion retired naturally with it. (That seems 
to me so obvious now !) and I was left, moving 
swiftly inwards, if I may express it so, towards a 
state of which I was completely ignorant. I was 
dying, as I suppose animals die. I never lost self- 
consciousness for a moment. As a rule, of course, 
one realizes self-consciousness, as philosophers 


tell us, by self-differentiation from what 
is not self. The baby learns it gradually by 
touching and looking. The dying lose it by 
ceasing to touch and see or, rather, they lose 
that mode of realizing it, and enter into them- 
selves instead. It is a transcendent kind of 
self-consciousness different altogether. 

" I had then a vague kind of anxiety, but I 
was perfectly peaceful. I had no particular 
remembrance of sins, no faith or love or hope 
nothing but a sense of extreme naturalness, if 
I may express it so. It seemed as if I had 
known all this all along as a stone thrown into 
the air would, if it had consciousness, realize the 
inevitability of its curve as it neared the earth. 
I was to die well, that was the corollary of 
having lived ! 

" Well, this inevitable movement inwards went 
on, as it seemed to me, very swiftly. Each instant 
that I applied my consciousness it seemed to me 
as if I had gone a great way since the previous 
instant ; the only thing that astonished me was 
the distance there was to travel. It was a sensa- 
tion how shall I express it ? a sensation of 
sinking swiftly into an inner depth of which I 
had not guessed the extent. I wondered, in a 
complacent, half curious kind of way, as to what 


exactly would be the end how things would be 
visualized when I passed finally from the body 
and, such things as I pictured, I pictured of 
course in terms of time and space. I I thought 
my essential self, whatever that was, would 
at a certain moment pass a certain line, and 
emerge on the other side ; and there things would 
be rather as they had been on earth, thinner . . . 
spiritual I should see faces, perhaps, forms, 
places, all in a kind of delicate light. What 
really happened was a complete surprise." 

Mr. Bosanquet paused, and in a meditative 
kind of way winked several times at the fire. 
He showed no emotion. He seemed to me merely 
to be recalling the best phrases to use. 

" Well," he said, " I have told this story before, 
and each time before telling it I have thought 
that I had got the point and could really describe 
what happened, and each time I have been dis- 
appointed. ... Of course it must be so. There 
are simply no words or illustrations. I must do 
the best I can. 

14 Well ; this process went on, and after a while 
I perceived plainly that my senses were fading. 
I believe I opened my eyes ; so I was told after- 
wards opened them wide ; but at any rate I 


saw nothing this time except blurred lines and 
colours, rather like the reverse side of a carpet. 
They were rather bewildering ; but they soon 
went, leaving nothing but a streaked greyness 
that darkened rapidly. 

" I could no longer move my hands or in fact 
recall to myself by feeling, any material thing at 
all. I seemed to have lost relations with my 
body. Neither could I move my lips or tongue 
taste had gone I don't think I had ever 
understood before how taste depends on the will 
and on the movement of the tongue much more 
so than any of the other senses which are more 
or less passive. 

"And then quite suddenly I perceived that 
hearing had ceased also. There had been no 
drumming in my ears, as I had half expected ; I 
think there had been at some time previously a 
clear singing of one high note which had rather 
bothered me ; and I suppose that it was then 
that hearing had gone, but I did not notice it 
till I thought about it. 

" And then there was one more thing more 

strange than all I began to perceive 

that my will was not myself. 

" Most of us are accustomed to think that it is. 
It is so closely united with that which is the very 


self that we usually identify them. Sometimes we 
are even more foolish, and identify our emotion 
with ourselves ; and think that our moods 
are our character. The fact is, of course, that 
the intellect is the most superficial of our faculties ; 
there are simply scores of things that we cannot 
understand in the least, but of which for all that 
we are as certain as of our own existence. Next 
to that comes the emotion ; it is certainly nearer 
to us than intellect, though not much, and 
thirdly comes the will. 

" Now the will is quite close to us ; it is that 
through which we consciously act, after having 
heard the reasons for or against action suggested 
by the other faculties. But the will is, after all, 
a faculty of itself not self itself. 

" I began to see this from the way it was labour- 
ing, like an exhausted engine ; it still throbbed 
and moved ; it turned this way and that, direct- 
ing the all but dead faculties outside to move in 
this or that direction to think and to perceive. 
But I began to see clearly now that the real self 
was something altogether apart existing simply 
in another mode. There that is the point in 
another mode. 

" Now, in this matter I feel hopeless. I simply 
cannot express what I knew, and know, to be the 


central fact of our existence. I can say no more 
than that Self, that which lies far behind every- 
thing else, exists in as different a mode from all 
else, as as the inner meaning of a phrase of 
music is apart from the existence of a dog walking 
up the street. There is simply no common term 
which can be applied to them both. 

" Well, I perceived my will to be labouring, 
very slowly and clumsily ; and I perceived that 
it would not be able to move much longer. (You 
must understand that this ' perceiving', as I call 
it, was not the act of my intellect ; it was simply 
a deep intuitive knowledge dwelling in that which 
I call Self.) 

" Then I suddenly became aware that it was 
important for my will to fall in the right direc- 
tion : I understand that this would make well 
the whole difference to me. ... I knew that 
this would be my last conscious act. 

" You ask me how I knew what was the right 
direction. Well I must go slowly here." 

He paused for a moment, then he went on very 
slowly, picking his words. 

" I began, I think I may say, to be clearly and 
vividly conscious of two centres ; there was Self, 
and there was Another. This Other was at 
present completely hidden from me. I was only 


aware of it as one may be aware of the presence 
of a huge personality behind an impenetrable 
curtain. But I perceived that this Other was 
the only important thing. 

" Well . . . my will was reeling ; there was 
no discomfort, no fear, or pain, or anxiety, and I 
whatever that is watched it, as a man may 
watch a top in its last swift twist ings on its side. 
I had still some control over it ; I knew that it 
was my will, it still was linked to me in a way. . . . 
Then I put out my energy (remember, there was 
no conscious perception of anything nothing 
but a perfectly unreflective instinct) and tried to 
wrench that rolling thing round to a position 
of rest ah ! how shall I put it a position of 
rest pointing towards this other centre. 

" And, as I made that effort 1 lost touch with 
it I have no idea whether I succeeded and at 
the same instant, if I may call it so, something 

Mr. Bosanquet leaned back and sighed. 

" Every word is wrong," he said, " you 
understand that, do you not ? " 

I nodded two or three times. I kept my eyes on 
his face. He glanced round at the other two. 
Then he went on, shifting his attitude a little : 


" Well, this something ... I suppose I could 
give half-a-dozen illustrations, but none of them 
would be adequate. Let me give you two or 

" When a man falls in love suddenly, his whole 
centre changes. Up to that point he has, prob- 
ably, referred everything to himself considered 
things from his own point. When he falls in love 
the whole thing is shifted ; he becomes a part of 
the circumference perhaps even the whole 
circumference ; some one else becomes the 
centre. For example, things he hears and sees are 
referred in future instantly to this other person ; 
he ceases to be acquisitive, his entire life, if it is 
really love, is pulled sideways ; he does not desire 
to get, but to give. That is why it is the noblest 
thing in the world. 

" Secondly, imagine that you had lived all 
your life in a certain house, and had got to know 
every detail of it perfectly ; you had walked about 
in the garden, too, and looked through the 
railings, and thought you knew pretty fairly what 
the country was like. Then, one morning, after 
you had got up and dressed, you went to your 
bedroom door, opened it and went out ; and that 
very instant found yourself not in the passage, 
but on the top of a high mountain with a strange 


country visible for miles all round, and no house 
or human being near you. 

" Thirdly (and this perhaps is the best illustra- 
tion after all) imagine that you were looking at a 
picture, and had become absorbed in it ; and then, 
without any warning at all the picture suddenly 
became a chord of music which you heard, and 
which you recognized to be identical with the 
picture not merely analogous to it but the 
actual picture translated, transubstantiated and 
trans-accidentated into sound. 

" Now, those are the three illustrations I 
generally use in telling this story ; there are 
others, but I think these are the best. 

" Well, it was like that ; but you must please 
to remember that these are only like charcoal 
sketches of something which is colour rather 
than shape. But, briefly, these are the nearest 
similitudes I can think of. 

" First, although I remained the same, I became 
aware that I simply was not the centre of what I 
experienced* It was not I who primarily existed 
at all. There was Something I call it Something, 
because the word Person simply bears no resem- 
blance to the Personality of this other existence, 
at least, no more than a resemblance ; because 
this other Personality was as different from, and 


as far above, our own as the personality of a 
philosopher is different from the corresponding 
thing in a pebble. I became aware (at least this 
was what I told myself afterwards), I became aware 
of real Existence for the first time in my experi- 
ence. I myself then, became merely a speck in a 
circumference. Yet and this is why I spoke of 
love I also became aware that while I had not 
lost my individuality, yet this other Being was the 
only thing that mattered at all, and, further 
well, I may as well say it outright, that in the 
very depth of this Existence was Human Nature 
yes, Human Nature. I knew it instantly. I 
never before had had the faintest idea of what 
the Incarnation really meant. 

" Secondly, the whole of everything was 
different as startlingly different as the change 
of my second illustration. I had expected to find 
a kind of continuation. There was, in one sense, 
no continuation at all nothing in the least 
like what experience had led me to expect. It 
was completely abrupt. 

" Thirdly ; in another sense, what I found was 
not only the consequence of what had preceded 
it was not simply the result ; but it was identical 
with what had preceded. It was the picture 
becoming sound the essence of my previous life 


was here in other terms. It simply was. The 
whole thing was complete. You may call this 
Judgment ; well, that will do ; but it was a 
Judgment in which there was no question of 
concurrence or protest. It was inevitably true. 

" Let me take even one more illustration. 

" Once I went with my brother into a glass- 
house in autumn. He smelt a certain flower, and 
then, rather excitedly, asked me to smell it. I 
shut my eyes and smelt it. Practically instantly 
the whole thing became sound and sight. I saw 
the terrace at home in summer, and heard the bees. 
I looked up. 

" ' Well ? he said. 

" ' The terrace in summer,' I said. 

" ' Exactly/ 

" Well ; it was like that. There was no 
question about it. 

" Now, I have taken some time to tell this ; 
but I must make it clear that there was absolutely 
no time in the experience, no sense of progression. 
It was not merely that I was absorbed, but that 
time had no existence. This is how I know it. 

" Simultaneously with all this I heard one noise ; 
and immediately time began I began to consider. 
Presently I heard another noise, then another, like 
a great drum being beaten. Then the noises went ; 


and there was absolute silence, of which I was 
aware, and others came in, a rustling, a footstep, 
the sound of words. I was entirely absorbed in 
these. I heard the sound of water, a door 
opening, the ticking of a clock. I was conscious 
of no consideration about these things, and no 
sensation of any kind ; it was as if my brain had 
become one ear which heard. This went on 
well, I may say it was ten seconds or ten years. 
Time meant nothing to me. I only know even 
now that it existed because one thing followed 
another. I did not reflect at all. 

" At last, after this had gone on, it was as if a 
new note had struck. Another sense began to 
move the sense of sight. I first became aware 
of darkness, then came a glimmer, with a sensa- 
tion of flickering. Then touch. I became aware 
of a constraint somewhere in the universe ; it was 
a long time before I knew that I myself was feeling 
it. I did not perceive sensation : I was it. 

" Well these waxed and waxed ; then my will 
stirred ; and I became aware that I could choose, 
that I could acquiesce or resent then emotion ; 
and I found myself disliking certain sensations. 
Then I began to wonder and question again, and 
ask myself why and what " 

Mr Bosanquet broke off abruptly. 


" Well, I needn't go on. To put it in a word I 
was coming back to ordinary life. Half an hour 
after the doctor had said that I was dead, and 
about three minutes after the nurse had finished 
with me, just as she was looking at me, in fact, 
before going out of the room, I made a sound 
with my lips. The rest happened as you would 
expect : there was nothing interesting in 

" But this is the point I want to make clear. 
Those noises I heard like a drum, followed by the 
silence, were, without doubt, the sounds my own 
body made in dying. 

" It was at that point that I died ; and the next 
sounds that I began to hear were the noise the 
nurse made in washing me and laying me out. 
There is no question about that. I asked about 
all the details, minutely. 

" But the thing that seemed to me so strange at 
first was the fact that I had died ' before ' that, as 
we say. That complete change of the mode of 
existence undoubtedly marked death ; and the 
particular instant of death must have been that 
at which I became aware of the change, and of the 
severance of my will from myself. 

" But I understood it presently. The 
explanation, I think, must be this : 


" There is always a certain space of time 
between an incident happening and our perception 
of it infinitesimally small if we are observing it ; 
but yet it is there. Well, when I made that final 
effort of will, I died ; but dying had begun before 
that. I had only regarded dying from the purely 
internal side ; it took, in my soul, the form of 
severance from my will. At that same instant, 
since we must speak in terms of time, I was in the 
spiritual mode of existence, where there is simply 
no time, but which includes all time and all one's 
previous experience, and in practically the same 
' instant ' I was back again, and experiencing the 
physical phenomena of dying. The drum-note was 
either my throat or heart, I suppose the silence 
that followed was the body's perception of death, 
worked out in terms of time. 

"We may say then this, impossible as it 
sounds, that death had taken place at a given 
moment in time that that inner real self, 
behind the will, which I have spoken of, 
simultaneously experienced severance from the 
body, and was, immediately in our own mode 
of existence, which, although reckoned as time 
was an instant, was in fact simply eternity with 
its inevitable consequences. But, after eternity 
had been experienced, since I suppose again I 


must say, ' after ' it ceased to be experienced ; 
and all this was enacted in time. Then " 

Mr. Bosanquet sat up, smiling suddenly. 

" It is useless I am boring you." 

I roused myself to answer with an energy I had 
not expected. 

" No please " 

" Well, in one sentence. . . . Then I died." 

He leaned back with an air of finality. 

"But but one question," I protested. " You 
spoke of Judgment. Was the result happiness or 
unhappiness ? " 

He shook his head, smiling. 


Father Maddox's Tale 


Father Maddox's Tale 

is a most disappointing story/* 
began old Father Maddox, with a 
deprecating smile. " You will find it 
as annoying as the ' Lady and the Tiger ' ; 
there is no answer. Or rather there are two, 
and you may take your choice, and no one can 
contradict you or satisfy you that you are right." 
There was a moment's pause as the priest 
elaborately placed a pinch of brown powder on 
his thumb-nail and inhaled it noisily through 
first one nostril and then the other, with an 
indescribable grimace. He flicked the specks 
away, wiped his nose with a magenta cotton hand- 
kerchief, replaced his snuff-box, folded his hands, 
cocked one knee over the other, and proceeded. 
Father Maddox had looked so profound just now 
that Canon Maxwell had turned and challenged 
him ; and here was the result. As he talked I 
watched his large, flat foot, creased across the 
toes, as if an extra two inches had been added 



subsequently. Its size and shape seemed the 
very embodiment of common sense. 

" About fourteen or fifteen years ago," he 
began, " I was at a mission in the Fens quite 
a little place you would not know its name 
about ten miles from Ely. I was very much 
pleased to hear one day that an old friend of mine 
had taken a house about seven miles away at a 
place called Baddenham because, you know, the 
life of a priest at such a mission is apt to be very 
lonely, and I looked forward to his company now 
and again. The neighbouring Protestant clergy 
would have nothing to say to me." 

The old man smiled at the company in his 
deprecating manner and went on : 

" About a week later my friend, Mr. Hudson 
a bachelor, by the way, and a Fellow of one 
of the Cambridge colleges, and a great recluse 
my friend wrote and asked me to spend a Monday 
to Wednesday with him. There was a novelist 
coming to stay with him I think I had better 
not mention his name ; we will call him Mr. 
Baxter and this er Mr. Baxter wished to 
meet a Catholic priest for a particular reason 
that you shall hear presently. I was very much 
pleased at this, for I had often heard the writer's 
name, as all of you have, Reverend Fathers " 


he smiled slily " and I liked his books. He was 
always very kind to us poor Papists, though I 
believe he was a man of no religion himself. 

" Well, I gave out that there would be no Mass 
on Tuesday or Wednesday and I said, too, 
where I was going, in case there was a sick-call, 
though that was not likely ; and on the Monday 
afternoon I walked up with my bag from 
Baddenham station to the Hall. 

" It was a very fine old house, very old built, 
I suppose, about the beginning of the sixteenth 
century and it stood in the middle of a little 
park of about a hundred acres. It was L-shaped, 
of red brick, with a little turret at the north end, 
and had a little walled garden on the south. 

" Mr. Baxter was not come yet ; he would be 
there for dinner, my friend told me ; and, sure 
enough, about half-past seven he came. 

" He was a little man not at all what I 
expected with black hair a little grey at the 
temples, clean-shaven, with spectacles. He was a 
very quick man I could see that. He talked 
a great deal at dinner ; and it seemed, from 
what my friend said, that he was come down 
there from town to make a beginning at his 
new book, which was to be on the days of 


Father Maddox stopped, and looked round 

" No, gentlemen, you cannot guess from that. 
The book was never written, as you shall hear." 

There was a murmur of disappointment, and 
Father Brent, who had sat forward suddenly, 
sank back again, smiling too. 

" Well, it seemed that Mr. Baxter wished to 
meet a priest, because he was anxious to hear a 
little of how Catholics managed in those days, 
what it was that priests carried with them on 
their travels, and so forth ; but it appeared 
presently that Catholics were not to be the 
principal characters of the story, though he 
thought of bringing them in. 

' I must have a priest, Father Maddox,' he 
said. ' There might be some good side-scenes 
made out of that. Please tell me everything you 

" Well, I told him all I could, and about the 

missal and altar-stone at Oscott, and so on ; and 

I told him, too, the kind of work that priests had 

to do, and their dangers, and the martyrdoms. 

' Did many give in ? ' he asked. 

" ' Apostatize ? ' I said. ' Oh, a few very 

" He seemed very thoughtful at that, and after 


we had smoked a little he asked if we might go 
round the house. He liked to know what sort 
of a place he was sleeping in, he said. He seemed 
to get very much excited with the house : it was 
certainly an interesting old place, with several 
panelled rooms, uneven floors, diamond-paned 
windows, and all the rest. There was a curious 
little place, too, in the turret : a kind of watch- 
tower, it seemed, with tiny windows, or rather 
spy-holes, *11 round. I never remember having 
seen anything like it elsewhere ; and it was 
approached by an oaken stair from the room 
below. It was so small that two people could 
hardly turn round in it together. 

" Well, we saw everything, going with candles, 
and came down again at last to the old parlour, 
and there we sat till nearly midnight, Mr. Baxter 
asking me all sorts of questions, many of which 
I could not answer. 

" When our host took up his candle to go to 
bed, Mr. Baxter said he would sit up a bit, so we 
left him and went upstairs. 

" I am always a poor sleeper, particularly in 
a new house, and I tossed about a long time. 
It was winter, by the way or rather, late autumn 
so I had a fire in my room, which was at the 
top of the stairs, the first door on the right. 


Then, when I did go to sleep at last, I dreamed 
that I was still awake. I don't know whether 
any one else has ever had that ; but I often do. 
I remember what I dreamed, too. It was that 
I was back again in the parlour with the other 
two, and that I was trying to sleep in my chair, 
but that Mr. Baxter would not be quiet ; he kept 
walking up and down the room, waving his hands 
and talking to himself, and that the other man 
ah ! wait." The priest paused. " I have not 
explained properly. At first, in my dream, the 
third man was certainly Mr. Hudson at least, 
I supposed so but after a while it seemed not 
to be ; it was some one else, I did not know who, 
and I could not remember his face. This third 
man, apparently, was not trying to sleep ; he was 
standing in the corner of the room, in the shadow, 
watching Mr. Baxter as he went up and down. 
Well, this went on a long while, and then at last 
I awoke, wide awake, and lay much annoyed. 
I was hardly fully awake before I heard Mr. Baxter 
come upstairs. I heard his bedroom candle 
clink as he lit it in the hall below, and then I 
heard the creak of one of his shoes, which I had 
noticed before. He came upstairs, past my door, 
walking rather quickly as his way was ; and I 
heard him shut the door of his room, which was 


at the further end of the landing. Then I went 
to sleep." 

Father Maddox paused, took another pinch of 
snuff, looking round on us. 

" Is that all dear, so far ? " he asked. 

There was a murmur of assent, and he went on : 

" Well, Mr. Baxter was very late at breakfast. 
He did not come down till we had finished, and 
I thought he looked very tired. He was plainly 
rather excited, too, and as he helped himself at 
the sideboard he turned round. 

' My dear Hudson,' he said, ' what a house 
this is of yours ! It has really inspired me. I 
sat up till nearly three, and I believe I have got 
a first-rate idea.' 

" Of course we asked what it was, and as he 
ate his porridge he told us. 

" He was going to bring in an apostate priest 
a man, sincere enough in his faith, who gave way 
under torture. He was to be the son of a family 
who remained good Catholics, and he was to 
come home again to the very place where he 
had been caught, and where his mother was still 
living. It would be a good situation, thought Mr. 
Baxter the apostate son, believing all the time, 
and his mother, who of coursejoved him, but who 
hated the thought of what he had done and 


these two should live together in the house where 
they had said good-bye two months before, when 
the mother thought her son was going to his 
martyrdom. It seemed to me quite possible, 
and I said so ; and that pleased Mr. Baxter very 

" ' Yes/ he said. ' And, Hudson, would you 
mind if I took this house as the scene of it ? It 
seems to me just made for it. That little turret- 
room, you know, would be the place from which 
the priest saw the constables surrounding the 
house ; and the room underneath could be the 
chapel. And think what he would think when 
he saw them again ! Do you mind ? ' 

" Mr. Hudson, of course, said that he would be 
highly honoured, and all the rest ; and so it was 

" Presently Mr. Baxter was off again. 

' It is quite extraordinary,' he said, ' how 
vivid the whole thing is to me the character of 
the priest, his little ways, the weakness in his face, 
and all the rest ; and the mother too, a fine silent 
old lady, intensely religious and intensely fond 
of her son, and knowing that he had only yielded 
through pain. He would limp a little, from the 
rack, and not be able to manage his knife very 


" I asked him presently how he worked out his 
characters and how far before he began to 

" ' Generally/ he said, ' I leave a good deal to 
the time of writing. I first get the idea, and 
perhaps the general appearance of each person, 
and of course the plot ; then I begin to write ; 
and after about a chapter or two the people seem 
to come alive and to do it all themselves, and I 
only have to write it down as well as I can. I 
think most writers find it happens like that. But 
this time I must say it is rather different : I 
don't think I have ever had anything so vivid 
before. I am beginning to think that my 
Catholics will have to be the principal people 
after all. At any rate, I shall begin with 

" He talked like this a good deal at breakfast, 
and seemed quite excited. It all seemed to me 
very odd, and particularly so when he said that, 
when he was once in the middle of the book, his 
characters seemed almost more real than living 
people ; it was a kind of trance, he said ; the 
real world became shadowy, and the world of 
imagination the real one. Since then I have 
asked one or two other writers, and they have 
told me the same. 


" Well, when we met at lunch I began to 
understand how true it all was. He was actually 
in a kind of waking dream ; he had been writing 
hard all the morning, and it seemed as if he 
could pay no attention to anything. He didn't 
talk much hardly a word, in fact and finally 
Mr. Hudson said something about it. 

" ' My dear man/ said the other, ' I really can't 
attend. I am very sorry ; but it's a kind of 
obsession now. I tell you that this book is the 
only thing that matters to me in the least. They 
are all waiting for me now in the study Mr. 
Jennifer the apostate, his mother, and an old 
manservant of the house. I can't possibly come 
out this afternoon ; this chapter has got to get 

" He really was quite pale with excitement, 
and he rushed out again as soon as he had 

" Well, Mr. Hudson and I went out together, 
and we got back about four, just as the evening 
was beginning to close in. We had tea alone ; 
Mr. Baxter had ordered it for himself, it seemed, 
when our host went in to see if he was coming. 

" ' He is working like a madman,' he said, when 
he came back. ' I have just given him the keys 
of the turret ; he says he is going up there before 


it is quite dark to see how far away the priest 
could have seen the constables round the house.' 

" After tea I went upstairs to put on my 
cassock and change my shoes, and as I went into 
my room I heard the study door open and Mr. 
Baxter come out. I watched him, from inside, 
go past, and heard him cross the landing to get 
to the turret-room and the stairs. 

" Now I must explain." 

Father Maddox paused ; then he leaned 
forward, drew up the little table by his side, 
and began to arrange books in the shape of an L. 

" This is the first floor, you understand. This 
small book stands for the horizontal of the L. 
My room was here, in the angle, at the top of 
Mie stairs. Mr. Baxter's room was on the right, 
past mine, at the end of the horizontal. Just 
opposite his room was the one which he said was 
to be the chapel, and out of this room rose the 
turret-stairs. This part of the house is only two 
stories high, but the turret itself is high enough 
to see over the roofs of the upright part of the L, 
as those rooms, although there are three stories 
of them, are much lower than these others. 

" Very well, then. ... I heard Mr. Baxter 
go across and go into the chapel-room. Then I 
heard his* footsteps stop ; he was looking, he 


told us afterwards, at the place where the altar 
would have stood, and so on. 

" When I had changed my things I thought I 
would go out and see how he was getting on. 
It was very nearly dark by now, so I took one 
of my candles and went across. The door of 
the chapel-room was open and I went in/' 

Father Maddox paused once more. I could 
see that a climax was coming, and I must 
confess that I felt oddly excited. He seemed 
such a common-sense man, too. 

" Now, those of you who have ever shot over 
dogs know what happens when a dog points ; 
how he stiffens all over and is all strung up tight. 
Well, that is what Mr. Baxter was doing. He 
was standing, rather crouching, with his hands 
out on either side, palms down, staring sideways 
up the little staircase that led to the turret. 
This staircase, I must tell you, ran diagonally up 
across the further end of the room, like a loft 
staircase. There were no open bannisters ; it was 
masked by panelling, and was generally closed 
by a door in the panelling ; but this was open 
now, and, as I said, he had twisted his head 
sideways so that his eyes looked up it up 
to the right. 

" Well, at first I thought he was calculating 


something, but he did not move as I came in ; 
he was like a statue. I said something, but he 
paid no attention. I went right up to him. 

" ' Mr. Baxter,' I said, ' I have come to see ' 

" Then a sort of horrid moan came from him, 
and he suddenly jumped back and seized me by 
the arm so that the candle dropped and we were 
almost in the dark ; but I caught a sight of his 

' He is coming down, he is coming down, 
Father,' he whispered. ' Oh ! for God's sake ! ' 
Then he gave a great wrench at my arm, still 
moaning ; and somehow we were out of the room, 
across the landing, and half tumbling downstairs 
together. Mr. Hudson ran out at the noise, and 
somehow we got him into the study and in a 
deep chair, and he went off into a swoon." 

The old man paused, and looked round with 
rather a tremulous smile ; and, I must confess, 
the silence in the room was very much 

" Well, half-an-hour later Mr. Baxter seemed 
himself again. He was able to tell us what had 
happened. It seemed that he had gone into the 
room, and, as I had thought, had stopped a 
moment or two there, trying to imagine the old 
arrangements that he had invented invented, 


Reverend Fathers ; remember that : there was 
no tradition about the house at all. Neither 
then nor afterwards. Then he had gone to the 
staircase to go up to the turret. 

" Now, this is what he said he saw he told us 
all this gradually, of course. He saw a man in 
a cassock and cap standing on the top step of 
the little stairs, looking out through the tiny 
window that is in the wall opposite. At first he 
thought it was I. It was very dark ; there was 
only a little dim light from the turret-room 
behind the figure, and his face, as I said, was 
pressed against the darkening window, exactly as 
if he were watching for somebody. He had called 
out, and the figure had turned, and he had seen 
it to be a young man, under thirty, with very 
large dark eyes, thin lips, and a little round chin. 
He had seen that absolutely plainly in the light 
from the window. He also saw, as he looked, 
that the face was exactly that of the priest whom 
he had imagined in his story, and who, as he had 
told us at lunch, was completely vivid to his 
brain. Well, he had simply stared and stared. 
He said that fear was not the word at all : it was 
a kind of paralysis. He could not move or take 
his eyes away ; and what was odd too was that 
this other man seemed paralysed too. He said 


that the lips moved, and that the eyes were wide 
and dilated, but that he said nothing. Mr. 
Baxter had heard me come in, and at the sound 
the figure at the top of the stairs had winced and 
clasped its hands, and that then, with some sort 
of hopeless gesture, it had begun to come down. 
Then I had spoken, and Mr. Baxter had turned 
and seized my arm. 

" Well, there was no doing anything with Mr. 
Baxter. He lay still, starting at every sound, 
telling us this little by little. Then he asked 
that his things might be packed. He must go 
away at once, he said. 

" We told him what nonsense it all was, and 
how he had been worked up ; and Mr. Hudson 
talked about the artistic temperament and all 
the rest. But it was no good ; he must go ; and 
Mr. Hudson rang the bell to give the order. As 
Mr. Baxter stood up at last, still all white and 
trembling, he saw his manuscript on the table, 
and before I could say a word he had seized it 
and tossed it into the fire : there would be thirty 
or forty pages, I should think. 

" We went to the door to see him off he had 
entirely refused to go upstairs again ; even his 
boots were brought down and he hardly said 
anything more after he had told us his story ; 



he said he would write in a day or two. Then 
we went back to the parlour and talked it 
all over. 

" Of course we said what we thought. It 
seemed to us plain enough that he had worked 
himself up to a most frightful pitch of nerves, 
and well, all the rest of it. The whole thing, 
we said, was sheer imagination ; you see, it was 
not that there was any story about the house. 

" Just as Mr. Hudson was going to dress, the 
butler came in." 

Father Maddox stopped again. 

" Now, Reverend Fathers, this is the point 
of the story, and you may draw your own 
conclusions. The butler came in, looking rather 
puzzled, and asked how many there would be 
for dinner. Mr. Hudson told him two : Mr. 
Baxter was not coming back. 

' I beg your pardon, sir/ said the man ; ' but 
what of the other gentleman ? ' 

' Why, here he is/ said my friend. ' One 
and one makes two, Manthorpe/ 

' But the gentleman upstairs, sir, and his 
servant ? ' 

'You may imagine we jumped rather at that ; 
and he told us then. 

" One of the maids going across the landing 


ten minutes before had seen two persons one of 
them a young gentleman, she said, in a long 
cloak, and the other an old man, his servant, she 
thought, for he was carrying a great bag come 
out of Mr. Baxter's room and go into the turret- 
room. The young gentleman was limping, she 
said. ' She had particularly noticed that.' ' 

Father Maddox stopped, and there was a 
sudden chorus of questions. 

" No," he said, " there was no explanation at 
all. The maid had not been at all frightened ; 
she had supposed it was another visitor come by 
the same train as that by which Mr. Baxter had 
come the night before. She had not followed 
them ; she had just gone and told Manthorpe, and 
asked where the gentleman was to sleep. We 
went everywhere into the turret-room, up the 
stairs everywhere. There was nothing ; there 
never was anything ; none at all. 

" Now you see the difficulty, Reverend Fathers," 
ended the old man, smiling again. " The ques- 
tion is, did Mr. Baxter's imagination in a kind of 
way create those things so strongly that not only 
he saw them, but the maid as well a kind of 
violent thought transference ? Or was it that 
there was truth in the story that something of 
the sort had happened in the house, and that this 

16 (x) 


was the reason why, firstly, the idea had come 
so vividly to Mr. Baxter's mind, and secondly 
that he and the maid had actually seen well, 
what they did see ? " 

He took out his snuff-box. 

Father Macclesfield's Tale 

Father Macclesfield's Tale 

MONSIGNOR MAXWELL announced next 
day at dinner that he had already 
arranged for the evening's entertain- 
ment. A priest, whose acquaintance he had made 
on the Palatine, was leaving for England the 
next morning ; and it was our only chance there- 
fore of hearing his story. That he had a story 
had come to the Canon's knowledge in the course 
of a conversation on the previous afternoon. 

" He told me the outline of it," he said, " I 
think it very remarkable. But I had a great 
deal of difficulty in persuading him to repeat it 
to the company this evening. But he promised 
at last. I trust, gentlemen, you do not think 
I have presumed in begging him to do so." 

Father Macclesfield arrived at supper. 

He was a little unimposing dry man, with a 
hooked nose, and grey hair. He was rather silent 
at supper ; but there was no trace of shyness in 
his manner as he took his seat upstairs, and 



without glancing round once, began in an even 
and dispassionate voice : 

" I once knew a Catholic girl that married an 
old Protestant three times her own age. I 
entreated her not to do so ; but it was useless. 
And when the disillusionment came she used to 
write to me piteous letters, telling me that her 
husband had in reality no religion at all. He was 
a convinced infidel ; and scouted even the idea 
of the soul's immortality. 

" After two years of married life the old man 
died. He was about sixty years old ; but very hale 
and hearty till the end. 

" Well, when he took to his bed, the wife sent 
for me ; and I had half-a-dozen interviews with 
him ; but it was useless. He told me plainly 
that he wanted to believe in fact he said that 
the thought of annihilation was intolerable to 
him. If he had had a child he would not have 
hated death so much ; if his flesh and blood in 
any manner survived him, he could have fancied 
that he had a sort of vicarious life left ; but as 
it was there was no kith or kin of his alive ; and 
he could not bear that." 

Father Macclesfield sniffed cynically, and folded 
his hands. 

" I may say that his death-bed was extremely 


unpleasant. He was a coarse old fellow, with 
plenty of strength in him ; and he used to make 
remarks about the churchyard and and in 
fact the worms, that used to send his poor child 
of a wife half fainting out of the room. He had 
lived an immoral life too, I gathered. 

" Just at the last it was well disgusting. 
He had no consideration (God knows why she 
married him !). The agony was a very long one ; 
he caught at the curtains round the bed ; calling 
out ; and all his words were about death, and the 
dark. It seemed to me that he caught hold of 
the curtains as if to hold himself into this world. 
And at the very end he raised himself clean up 
in bed, and stared horribly out of the window 
that was open just opposite. 

" I must tell you that straight away beneath 
the window lay a long walk, between sheets of 
dead leaves with laurels on either side, and the 
branches meeting overhead, so that it was very 
dark there even in summer ; and at the end of the 
walk away from the house was the churchyard 

Father Macclesfield paused and blew his nose. 
Then he went on still without looking at us. 

" Well the old man died ; and he was carried 
along this laurel path, and buried. 


" His wife was in such a state that I simply 
dared not go away. She was frightened to death ; 
and, indeed, the whole affair of her husband's 
dying was horrible. But she would not leave the 
house. She had a fancy that it would be cruel to 
him. She used to go down twice a day to pray 
at the grave ; but she never went along the 
laurel walk. She would go round by the garden 
and in at a lower gate, and come back the same 
way, or by the upper garden. 

" This went on for three or four days. The 
man had died on a Saturday, and was buried on 
Monday ; it was in July ; and he had died 
about eight o'clock. 

" I made up my mind to go on the Saturday 
after the funeral. My curate had managed along 
very well for a few days ; but I did not like to 
leave him for a second Sunday. 

" Then on the Friday at lunch her sister had 
come down, by the way, and was still in the house 
on the Friday the widow said something about 
never daring to sleep in the room where the old 
man had died. I told her it was nonsense, and 
so on ; but you must remember she was in a 
dreadful state of nerves, and she persisted. So 
I said I would sleep in the room myself. I had 
no patience with such ideas then. 


" Of course she said all sorts of things, but I 
had my way ; and my things were moved in on 
Friday evening. 

" I went to my new room about a quarter 
before eight to put on my cassock for dinner. The 
room was very much as it had been rather dark 
because of the trees at the end of the walk outside. 
There was the four-poster there with the damask 
curtains ; the table and chairs, the cupboard 
where his clothes were kept, and so on. 

* When I had put my cassock on, I went to 
the window to look out. To right and left were 
the gardens, with the sunlight just off them, but 
still very bright and gay, with the geraniums, 
and exactly opposite was the laurel walk, like 
a long green shady tunnel, dividing the upper 
and lower lawns. 

" I could see straight down it to the church- 
yard gate, which was about a hundred yards 
away, I suppose. There were limes overhead, 
and laurels, as I said, on each side. 

" Well I saw some one coming up the walk ; 
but it seemed to me at first that he was drunk. 
He staggered several times as I watched ; I 
suppose he would be fifty yards away and once 
I saw him catch hold of one of the trees and cling 
against it as if he were afraid of falling. Then 


he left it, and came on again slowly, going from 
side to side, with his hands out. He seemed 
desperately keen to get to the house. 

" I could see his dress ; and it astonished me 
that a man dressed so should be drunk ; for he 
was quite plainly a gentleman. He wore a white 
top hat, and a grey cut-away coat, and grey 
trousers, and I could make out his white spats. 

" Then it struck me he might be ill ; and I 
looked harder than ever, wondering whether I 
ought to go down. 

" When he was about twenty yards away he 
lifted his face ; and, it struck me as very odd, 
but it seemed to me he was extraordinarily like 
the old man we had buried on Monday ; but it 
was darkish where he was, and the next moment 
he dropped his face, threw up his hands and fell 
flat on his back. 

" Well of course I was startled at that, and I 
leaned out of the window and called out some- 
thing. He was moving his hands' I could see, as 
if he were in convulsions ; and I could hear the 
dry leaves rustling. 

" Well, then I turned and ran out and 

Father Macclesfield stopped a moment. 

" Gentlemen," he said abruptly, " when I got 


there, there was not a sign of the old man. I 
could see that the leaves had been disturbed, but 
that was all." 

There was an odd silence in the room as he 
paused ; but before any of us had time to speak 
he went on. 

" Of course I did not say a word of what I had 
seen. We dined as usual ; I smoked for an hour 
or so by myself after prayers ; and then I 
went up to bed. I cannot say I was perfectly 
comfortable, for I was not ; but neither was I 

" When I got to my room I lit all my candles, 
and then went to a big cupboard I had noticed, 
and pulled out some of the drawers. In the 
bottom of the third drawer I found a grey cut- 
away coat and grey trousers ; I found several 
pairs of white spats in the top drawer ; and a 
white hat on the shelf above. That is the first 

" Did you sleep there, Father ? " said a voice 

" I did," said the priest ; " there was no reason 
why I should not. I did not fall asleep for two 
or three hours ; but I was not disturbed in any 
way ; and came to breakfast as usual. 

" Well, I thought about it all a bit ; and finally 


I sent a wire to my curate telling him I was 
detained. I did not like to leave the house 
just then." 

Father Macclesfield settled himself again in his 
chair and went on, in the same dry uninterested 

" On Sunday we drove over to the Catholic 
Church, six miles off, and I said Mass. Nothing 
more happened till the Monday evening. 

" That evening I went to the window again 
about a quarter before eight, as I had done both 
on the Saturday and Sunday. Everything was 
perfectly quiet, till I heard the churchyard gate 
unlatch ; and I saw a man come through. 

" But I saw almost at once that it was not the 
same man I had seen before ; it looked to me like 
a keeper, for he had a gun across his arm ; then 
I saw him hold the gate open an instant, and a 
dog came through and began to trot up the path 
towards the house with his master following. 

" When the dog was about fifty yards away he 
stopped dead, and pointed. 

" I saw the keeper throw his gun forward and 
come up softly ; and as he came the dog began 
to slink backwards. I watched very closely, 
clean forgetting why I was there ; and the next 
instant something it was too shadowy under the 


trees to see exactly what it was but something 
about the size of a hare burst out of the laurels 
and made straight up the path, dodging from side 
to side, but coming like the wind. 

" The beast could not have been more than 
twenty yards from me, when the keeper fired, 
and the creature went over and over in the dry 
leaves, and lay struggling and screaming. It 
was horrible ! But what astonished me was that 
the dog did not come up. I heard the keeper 
snap out something, and then I saw the dog 
making off down the avenue in the direction 
of the churchyard as hard as he could go. 

" The keeper was running now towards me ; 
but the screaming of the hare, or of whatever it 
was, had stopped ; and I was astonished to see 
the man come right up to where the beast was 
struggling and kicking, and then stop as if he was 

" I leaned out of the window and called to him. 
' Right in front of you, man/ I said. ' For 
God's sake kill the brute/ 

" He looked up at me, and then down again. 

" ' Where is it, sir/ he said. ' I can't see it 

" And there lay the beast clear before him all 
the while, not a yard away, still kicking. 


" Well, I went out of the room and downstairs 
and out to the avenue. 

" The man was standing there still, looking 
terribly puzzled, but the hare was gone. There 
was not a sign of it. Only the leaves were 
disturbed, and the wet earth showed beneath. 

" The keeper said that it had been a great 
hare ; he could have sworn to it ; and that he 
had orders to kill all hares and rabbits in the 
garden enclosure. Then he looked rather 

" ' Did you see it plainly, sir/ he asked. 

" I told him, not very plainly ; but I thought 
it a hare too. 

" ' Yes, sir/ he said, ' it was a hare, sure enough ; 
but, do you know, sir, I thought it to be a kind of 
silver grey with white feet. I never saw one like 
that before ! ' 

" The odd thing was that not a dog would come 
near, his own dog was gone ; but I fetched the 
yard dog a retriever, out of his kennel in the 
kitchen yard ; and if ever I saw a frightened 
dog it was this one. When we dragged him up at 
last, all whining and pulling back, he began to 
snap at us so fiercely that we let go, and he went 
back like the wind to his kennel. It was the same 
with the terrier. 


" Well, the bell had gone, and I had to go in 
and explain why I was late ; but I didn't say 
anything about the colour of the hare. That was 
the second incident." 

Father Macclesfield stopped again, smiling 
reminiscently to himself. I was very much 
impressed by his quiet air and composure. I 
think it helped his story a good deal. 

Again, before we had time to comment or 
question he went on. 

' The third incident was so slight that I should 
not have mentioned it, or thought anything of it, 
if it had not been for the others ; but it seemed 
to me there was a kind of diminishing gradation 
of energy, which explained. Well, now you 
shall hear. 

" On the other nights of that week I was at my 
window again ; but nothing happened till the 
Friday. I had arranged to go for certain next 
day ; the widow was much better and more 
reasonable, and even talked of going abroad 
herself in the following week. 

" On that Friday evening I dressed a little 
earlier, and went down to the avenue this time, 
instead of staying at my window, at about twenty 
minutes to eight. 

" It was rather a heavy depressing evening, 


without a breath of wind ; and it was darker than 
it had been for some days. 

" I walked slowly down the avenue to the gate 
and back again ; and, I suppose it was fancy, 
but I felt more uncomfortable than I had felt at 
all up to then. I was rather relieved to see the 
widow come out of the house and stand looking 
down the avenue. I came out myself then and 
went towards her. She started rather when she 
saw me and then smiled. 

' I thought it was some one else/ she said. 
' Father, I have made up my mind to go. I shall 
go to town to-morrow, and start on Monday. My 
sister will come with me/ 

" I congratulated her ; and then we turned 
and began to walk back to the lime avenue. She 
stopped at the entrance, and seemed unwilling 
to come any further. 

' Come down to the end/ I said, ' and back 
again. There will be time before dinner/ 

" She said nothing ; but came with me ; and 
we went straight down to the gate and then turned 
to come back. 

" I don't think either of us spoke a word ; I 
was very uncomfortable indeed by now ; and yet 
I had to go on. 

" We were half way back I suppose when I 


heard a sound like a gate rattling ; and I whisked 
round in an instant, expecting to see some one at 
the gate. But there was no one. 

" Then there came a rustling overhead in the 
leaves ; it had been dead still before. Then I 
don't know why, but I took my friend suddenly 
by the arm and drew her to one side out of the 
path, so that we stood on the right hand, not a 
foot from the laurels. 

" She said nothing, and I said nothing ; but I 
think we were both looking this way and that, 
as if we expected to see something. 

' The breeze died, and then sprang up again ; 
but it was only a breath. I could hear the 
living leaves rustling overhead, and the dead leaves 
underfoot ; and it was blowing gently from the 

" Then I saw a thing that one often sees ; but I 
could not take my eyes off it, nor could she. It 
was a little column of leaves, twisting and turning 
and dropping and picking up again in the wind, 
coming slowly up the path. It was a capricious 
sort of draught, for the little scurry of leaves 
went this way and that, to and fro across the 
path. It came up to us, and I could feel the 
breeze on my hands and face. One leaf struck 
me softly on the cheek, and I can only say 

17 (aooo) 


that I shuddered as if it had been a toad. Then 
it passed on. 

" You understand, gentlemen, it was pretty 
dark ; but it seemed to me that the breeze died 
and the column of leaves it was no more than 
a little twist of them sank down at the end of 
the avenue. 

" We stood there perfectly still for a moment or 
two ; and when I turned, she was staring straight 
at me, but neither of us said one word. 

" We did not go up the avenue to the house. 
We pushed our way through the laurels, and 
came back by the upper garden. 

" Nothing else happened ; and the next morning 
we all went off by the eleven o'clock train. 

" That is all, gentlemen/' 


Father Stein's Tale 


Father Stein's Tale 

OLD Father Stein was a figure that greatly 
fascinated me during my first weeks 
in Rome, after I had got over the slight 
impatience that his personality roused in me. 
He was slow of speech and thought and move- 
ment, and had that distressing grip of the obvious 
that is characteristic of the German mind. I soon 
rejoiced to look at his heavy face, generally un- 
shaven, his deep twinkling eyes, and the ponderous 
body that had such an air of eternal immov- 
ability, and to watch his mind, as through a glass 
case, labouring like an engine over a fact that he 
had begun to assimilate. He took a kind of 
paternal interest in me too, and would thrust 
his thick hand under my arm as he stood by me, or 
clap me heavily on the shoulder as we met. But 
he was excellently educated, had seen much of the 
world, although always through a haze of the 
Fatherland that accompanied him everywhere, 

and had acquired an exceptional knowledge of 

\ V2 


English during his labours in a London mission. 
He used his large vocabulary with a good deal of 

I was pleased then when Monsignor announced 
on the following evening that Father Stein was 
prepared to contribute a story. But the German, 
knowing that he was master of the situation, would 
utter nothing at first but hoarse ejaculations at 
the thought of his reminiscences, and it was not 
until we had been seated for nearly half-an-hour 
before the fire that he consented to begin. 

" It is of a dream," he said, " no more than that ; 
and yet dreams too are under the hand of the 
good God ; so I hold. Some, I know, are just 
folly ; and tell us of nothing but the confusion 
of our own nature when the controlling-will is 
withdrawn ; but some, I hold, are the whispers 
of God and tell us of what we are too dull to hear 
in our waking life. You do not believe me ? 
Very well ; then listen. 

" I knew a man in Germany, thirty years ago, 
who had lived many years away from God. He 
had been a Catholic, and was well-educated in 
religion till he grew to be a lad. Then he fell into 
sin, and dared not confess it ; and he lied, and 
made bad confessions and approached the altar 


so. He once went to a strange priest to tell his 
sin, and dared not when the time came ; and so 
added sin to sin, and lost his faith. It is ever so. 
We know it well. The soul dare not go on in 
that state, believing in God ; and so by n inner 
act of the will renounces Him. It is not true, it 
is not true, she cries ; and at last the voice of faith 
is silent, and her eyes blind." 

The priest stopped and looked round him, 
and the old Rector nodded once or twice and 
murmured assent. 

" For twenty years he had lived so ; without 
God, and he was not unhappy ; for the powers of 
his soul died one by one and he could no longer 
feel. Once or twice they struggled, in their death 
agony, and he stamped on them again. Once 
when his mother died, he nearly lived again ; and 
his soul cried once more within him, and stirred 
herself ; but he would not hear her ; it is useless, 
he said to her, there is no hope for you ; lie still ; 
there is nothing for you ; you are dreaming ; 
there is no life such as you think ; and he trampled 
her again, and she lay still." 

We were all very quiet now ; I certainly had 
not suspected such passion in this old priest ; 
he had seemed to me slow and dull and not capable 
of any sort of delicate thought or phrase, far less of 


tragedy ; but somehow now his great face was 
lighted up, his eyebrows twitched as he talked ; 
and it seemed as if we were hearing of a murder 
that this man had seen for himself. Monsignor 
sat perfectly motionless staring intently into the 
fire ; and Father Brent was watching the German 
sideways ; Father Stein took a deliberate pinch 
of snuff, snapped his box, and put it away, and 
went on. 

" This man had lived on the sea-coast as a child, 
but was now in business in a town on the Rhine ; 
and had never visited his old home since he left 
it with his mother on his father's death. He was 
now about thirty-five years of age, when God was 
gracious to him. He was living in a cousin's 
house, with whom he was partner. 

" One night he dreamed he was a child, and 
walking with one whom he knew was his sister 
who had died before he was born ; but he could 
not see her face. They were on a white dusty 
road, and it was the noon of a hot summer day. 
There was nothing to be seen round him, but great 
slopes of a dusty country with dry grass ; and the 
burning sky overhead, and the sun. He was tired, 
and his feet ached, and he was crying as he walked, 
but he dared not cry loud for fear that his sister 
would turn and look at him, and he knew she was 


a a rtvenani and did not wish to see her eyes. 
There was no wind, and no birds, and no clouds ; 
only the grasshoppers sawed in the dry grass, and 
the blood drummed in his ears until he thought 
he would go mad with the noise. And so they 
walked, the boy behind his sister, up a long hill. 
It seemed to him that they had been walking so 
for hours, for a lifetime ; and that there would 
be no end to it. His feet sank to the ankles in 
dust, the sun beat on to his brain from above, the 
white road glared from below ; and the tears ran 
down his cheeks. 

" Then there was a breath of salt wind in his 
face, and his sister began to go faster, noiselessly ; 
and he tried too to go faster, but could not ; his 
heart beat like a hammer in his throat, and his 
feet lagged more and more ; and little by little 
his sister was far in front ; and he dared not cry 
out to her not to leave him, for fear she should 
turn and look at him ; and at last he was walking 
alone ; and he dared not lie down or rest. 

" The road passed up a slope, and when he 
reached the top of it at last, he saw her again, far 
away, a little figure that turned to him and waved 
its hand ; and behind her was the blue sea, very 
faint and in a mist of heat ; and then he knew 
tli it the end of the bitter journey was very near. 


" As he passed up the last slope the sea-line rose 
higher against the sky, but the line was only as 
the fine mark of a pencil where sea and sky met, 
and a dazzling white bird or two passed across it, 
and then dropped below the cliff. By the time 
he came near his sister the dusty road had died 
away into the grass, and he was walking over the 
fresh turf that felt cool to his hot feet. He threw 
himself down on the edge of it, by his sister, where 
she was lying with her head on her hands looking 
out at the sea where it spread itself out, a 
thousand feet below ; and still he had not seen 
her face. 

" At the foot of the cliff was a little white beach, 
and the rocks ran down into deep water on every 
side of it, and threw a purple shadow across the 
sand ; and there were birds here too, floating out 
from the cliff and turning and returning ; and the 
sea beneath them was a clear blue, like a Cardinal's 
ring that I saw once ; and the breeze blew up 
from the water and made him happy again." 

Father Stein stopped again, with something 
of a sob in his old heavy voice ; and then he 
turned to us. 

" You know such dreams," he said, " I cannot 
tell it as as he told me ; but he said it was like 
the bliss of the redeemed to look down on the sea 


and feel the breeze in his hair, and taste its 
salt ness. 

" He did not wish his sister to speak, though 
he was afraid of her no more ; and yet he knew 
that there was some secret to be told that would 
explain all why they were here, and why she 
had come back to him, and why the sea was here, 
and the little beach below them, and the wind 
and the birds. But he was content to wait until 
it was time for her to tell him, as he knew she 
would. It was enough to lie here, after the dusty 
journey, beside her, and to wait for the word that 
should be spoken. 

" Now at first he was so out of breath, and his 
heart beat so in his ears, that he could hear 
nothing but that and his own panting ; but it grew 
quieter soon, and he began to hear something else- 
the noises of the sea beneath him. It was a still 
day, but there was movement down below ; and 
the surge heaved itself softly against the cliff, and 
murmured in deep caves below, like the pedal 
note of the Frankfort organ, solemn and splendid ; 
and the waves leaned over and crashed gently on 
the sand. It was all so far beneath that he saw 
the breaking wave before the sound came up to 
him ; and he lay there and watched and listened ; 
and that great sound made him happier even 


than the light on the water, and the coolness and 
rest ; for it was the sea itself that was speaking 

" Then he saw suddenly that his sister had 
turned on her elbow and was looking at him ; and 
he looked into her eyes, and knew her, though she 
had died before he was born. And she too was 
listening with her lips parted to the sound of the 
surge. And now he knew that the secret was to 
be told ; and he watched her eyes, smiling. And 
she lifted her hand, as if to hold him silent ; and 
waited ; and again the sweet murmur and crash 
rose up from the sea ; and she spoke, softly. 

" ' It is the Precious Blood,' she said." 

Father Stein was silent ; and we all were 
silent for a while. As far as I was concerned at 
least the story had somehow held me with an 
extraordinary fascination, I scarcely knew why. 

There was a movement among the others, and 
presently the Frenchman spoke. 

" Et puis ? " he said. 

" The man awoke," said Father Stein, " and 
found tears on his face." 

It was such a short story that there were still a 
few minutes before the time for night-prayers, and 
we sat there without speaking again until the clock 


sounded in the campanile overhead, and the 
Rector rose and led the way into the West gallery 
of the church. I saw Father Stein waiting at the 
door for me to come up ; and I knew why he was 

He took my arm in his thick hand and held 
it a moment as the others passed down the two 
steps. Then he pressed it, and I understood 
what he meant. 


Mr. Percival's Tale 

Mr. Percival's Tale 

WHEN I came in from Mass into the refec- 
tory on the morning following Father 
Stein's story, I found a layman break- 
fasting there with the Father Rector. We were 
introduced to one another ; and I learned that 
Mr. Percival was a barrister who had arrived from 
England that morning on a holiday and was to 
stay at S. Filippo for a fortnight. 

I yield to none in my respect for the clergy ; 
at the same time a layman feels occasionally 
something of a pariah among them : I suppose 
this is bound to be so ; so I was pleased then 
to find another dog of my breed with whom 
I might consort, and even howl, if I so desired. 
I was pleased, too, with his appearance. He had 
that trim academic air that is characteristic of 
the Bar, in spite of his twenty-two hours jour- 
ney ; and was dressed in an excellently made 
grey suit. He was very slightly bald on his fore- 
head, and had those sharp-cut mask-like features 

18 <x*x>) 


that mark a man as either lawyer, priest, or actor ; 
he had besides delightful manners and even, white 
teeth. I do not think I could have suggested 
any improvements in person, behaviour, or 

By the time that my coffee had arrived, the 
Father Rector had run dry of conversation and 
I could see that he was relieved when I 
joined in. 

In a few minutes I was telling Mr. Percival 
about the symposium we had formed for the 
relating of preternatural adventures ; and I 
presently asked him whether he had ever had 
any experience of the kind. 

He shook his head. 

" I have not," he said in his virile voice ; " my 
business takes my time." 

" I wish you had been with us earlier," put 
in the Rector. " I think you would have been 

" I am sure of it," he said. " I remember 
once but you know, Father, frankly I am 
something of a sceptic." 

" You remember ? " I suggested. 

He smiled very pleasantly with eyes and 

" Yes, Mr. Benson ; I was once next 


door to such a story. A friend of mine saw 
something ; but I was not with him at the 

"Well; we thought we had finished last 
night," I said, " but do you think you would be 
too tired to entertain us this evening ? " 

" I shall be delighted to tell the story," he said 
easily. " But indeed I am a sceptic in this 
matter ; I cannot dress it up." 

" We want the naked fact," I said. 

I went sight-seeing with him that day ; and 
found him extremely intelligent and at the same 
time accurate. The two virtues do not run often 
together ; and I felt confident that whatever he 
chose to tell us would be salient and true. I felt, 
too, that he would need few questions to draw 
him out ; he would say what there was to be said 

When we had taken our places that night, he 
began by again apologizing for his attitude of 

" I do not know, Reverend Fathers," he said, 
" what are your own theories in this matter ; 
but it appears to me that if what seems to be 
preternatural can possibly be brought within the 
range of the natural, one is bound scientifically 
to treat it in that way. Now in this story of 


mine for I will give you a few words of 
explanation first in order to prejudice your minds 
as much as possible ; in this story the whole 
matter might be accounted for by the imagina- 
tion. My friend who saw what he saw was 
under rather theatrical circumstances, and he is 
an Irishman. Besides that, he knew the history 
of the place in which he was ; and he was quite 
alone. On the other hand, he has never had an 
experience of the kind before or since ; he is 
perfectly truthful, and he saw what he saw in 
moderate daylight. I give you these facts first, 
and I think you would be perfectly justified in 
thinking they account for everything. As for my 
own theory, which is not quite that, I have no 
idea whether you will agree or disagree with it. 
I do not say that my judgment is the only 
sensible one, or anything offensive like that. 
I merely state what I feel I am bound to accept 
for the present." 

There was a murmur of assent. Then he 
crossed his legs, leaned back and began : 

" In my first summer after I was called to the 
Bar I went down South Wales for a holiday with 
another man who had been with me at Oxford. 
His name was Murphy : he is a J.P. now, in 


Ireland, I think. I cannot think why we went 
to South Wales ; but there it is : we did. 

" We took the train to Cardiff ; sent on our 
luggage up the Taff Valley to an inn of which I 
cannot remember the name ; but it was close to 
where Lord Bute has a vineyard. Then we 
walked up to Llandaff, saw St. Tylo's tomb ; 
and went on again to this village. 

" Next morning we thought we would look 
about us before going on ; and we went out for a 
stroll. It was one of the most glorious mornings 
I ever remember, quite cloudless and very hot ; 
and we went up through woods to get a breeze at 
the top of the hill. 

" We found that the whole place was full of iron 
mines, disused now, as the iron is richer further 
up the country ; but I can tell you that they 
enormously improved the interest of the place. 
We found shaft after shaft, some protected and 
some not, but mostly overgrown with bushes, 
so we had to walk carefully. We had passed half- 
a-dozen, I should think, before the thought of 
going down one of them occurred to Murphy. 

" Well, we got down one at last ; though I 
rather wished for a rope once or twice ; and I 
think it was one of the most extraordinary sights 
I have ever seen. You know perhaps what the 


cave of a demon-king is like, in the first act of a 
pantomime. Well, it was like that. There was a 
kind of blue light that poured down the shafts, 
refracted from surface to surface ; so that the sky 
was invisible. On all sides passages ran into 
total darkness ; huge reddish rocks stood out 
fantastically everywhere in the pale light ; there 
was a sound of water falling into a pool from a 
great height and presently, striking matches as 
we went, we came upon a couple of lakes of mar- 
vellously clear blue water through which we could 
see the heads of ladders emerging from other 
black holes of unknown depth below. 

" We found our way out after a while into what 
appeared to be the central hall of the mine. Here 
we saw plain daylight again, for there was an 
immense round opening at the top, from the edges 
of which curved away the sides of the shaft, 
forming a huge circular chamber. 

" Imagine the Albert Hall roofless ; or better 
still, imagine Saint Peter's with the top half of 
the dome removed. Of course it was far smaller ; 
but it gave an impression of great size ; and it 
could not have been less than two hundred feet from 
the edge, over which we saw the trees against the 
sky, to the tumbled dusty rocky floor where we 


" I can only describe it as being like a great, 
burnt-out hell in the Inferno. Red dust lay 
everywhere, escape seemed impossible ; and vast 
crags and galleries, with the mouths of passages 
showing high up, marked by iron bars and chains, 
jutted out here and there. 

" We amused ourselves here for some time, by 
climbing up the sides, calling to one another, for 
the whole place was full of echoes, rolling down 
stones from some of the upper ledges : but I 
nearly ended my days there. 

" I was standing on a path, about seventy feet 
up, leaning against the wall. It was a path along 
which feet must have gone a thousand times 
when the mine was in working order ; and I was 
watching Murphy who was just emerging on to a 
platform opposite me, on the other side of the gulf. 

" I put my hand behind me to steady myself ; 
and the next instant very nearly fell forward over 
the edge at the violent shock to my nerves given 
by a wood-pigeon who burst out of a hole, brush- 
ing my hand as he passed. I gripped on, however, 
and watched the bird soar out across space, and 
then up and out at the opening ; and then I be- 
came aware that my knees were beginning to shake. 
So I stumbled along, and threw myself down 
on the little platform on to which the passage led. 


" I suppose I had been more startled than I 
knew ; for I tripped as I went forward ; and 
knocked my knee rather sharply on a stone. 
I felt for an instant quite sick with the pain on 
the top of jangling nerves ; and lay there saying 
what I am afraid I ought not to have said. 

" Then Murphy came up when I called ; and 
we made our way together through one of the 
sloping shafts ; and came out on to the hillside 
among the trees." 

Mr. Percival paused ; his lips twitched a 
moment with amusement. 

" I am afraid I must recall my promise," he 
said. " I told you all this because I was anxious 
to give a reason for the feeling I had about the 
mine, and which I am bound to mention. I 
felt I never wanted to see the place again yet in 
spite of what followed I do not necessarily 
attribute my feelings to anything but the shock 
and the pain that I had had. You understand 
that ? " 

His bright eyes ran round our faces. 

" Yes, yes," said Monsignor sharply, " go on, 
please, Mr. Percival." 

" WeU then ! " 

The lawyer uncrossed his legs and replaced them 
the other way. 


" During lunch we told the landlady where we 
had been ; and she begged us not to go there 
again. I told her that she might rest easy : my 
knee was beginning to swell. It was a wretched 
beginning to a walking tour. 

'* It was not that, she said ; but there had 
been a bad accident there. Four men had been 
killed there twenty years before by a fall of rock. 
That had been the last straw on the top of 
ill-success ; and the mine had been abandoned. 

" We inquired as to details : and it seemed that 
the accident had taken place in the central 
chamber, locally called ' The Cathedral ' ; and 
after a few more questions I understood. 

" 'That was where you were, my friend,' I said 
to Murphy, * it was where you were when the bird 
flew out.' 

" He agreed with me ; and presently when the 
woman was gone announced that he was going 
to the mine again to see the place. Well ; I had 
no business to keep him dangling about . I couldn't 
walk anywhere myself : so I advised him not to 
go on to that platform again ; and presently he 
took a couple of candles from the sticks and went 
off. He promised to be back by four o'clock ; 
and I settled down rather drearily to a pipe and 
some old magazines. 


" Naturally I fell sound asleep ; it was a hot, 
drowsy afternoon and the magazines were dull. 
I awoke once or twice, and then slept again deeply. 

" I was awakened by the woman coming in to 
ask whether I would have tea ; it was already five 
o'clock. I told her Yes. I was not in the least 
anxious about Murphy ; he was a good climber, 
and therefore neither a coward nor a fool. 

" As tea came in I looked out of the window 
again, and saw him walking up to the path, 
covered with iron-dust, and a moment later I 
heard his step in the passage ; and he came in. 

" Mrs. What's-her-name had gone out. 

" ' Have you had a good time ? ' I asked. 

" He looked at me very oddly ; and paused 
before he answered. 

" ' Oh, yes,' he said ; and put his cap and stick 
in a corner. 

" I knew Murphy. 

" ' Well, why not ? ' I asked him, beginning to 
pour out tea. 

" He looked round at the door ; then he sat 
down without noticing the cup I pushed across 
to him. 

" ' My dear fellow,' he said. ' I think I am 
going mad.' 

" Well ; I forget what I said : but I understood 


that he was very much upset about something ; 
and I suppose I said the proper kind of thing about 
his not being a qualified fool. 
"Then he told me his story." 

Mr. Percival looked round at us again, still 
with that slight twitching of the lips that seemed 
to signify amusement. 

" Please remember " he began ; and then 

broke off. " No I won't " 

" Well. 

" He had gone down the same shaft that we 
went down in the morning ; and had spent a 
couple of hours exploring the passages. He had 
found an engine-room with tanks and rotten 
beams in it, and rusty chains. He had found 
some more lakes too, full of that extraordinary 
electric-blue water ; he had disturbed a quantity 
of bats somewhere else. Then he had come out 
again into the central hall ; and on looking at his 
watch had found it after four o'clock ; so he 
thought he would climb up by the way we had 
come in the morning and go straight home. 

" It was as he climbed that his odd sensations 
began. As he went up, clinging with his hands, 
he became perfectly certain that he was being 
watched. He couldn't turn round very well ; but 


he looked up as he went to the opening over- 
head ; but there was nothing there but the dead 
blue sky, and the trees very green against it> 
and the red rocks curving away on every side. 
It was extraordinarily quiet, he said, the pigeons 
had not come home from feeding, and he was out 
of hearing of the dripping water that I told you of. 

" Then he reached the platform and the opening 
of the path where I had had my fright in the 
morning ; and turned round to look. 

" At first he saw nothing peculiar. The rocks 
up which he had come fell away at his feet down 
to the floor of the ' Cathedral ' and to the nettles 
with which he had stung his hands a minute or 
two before. He looked around at the galleries 
overhead and opposite; but there was nothing 

" Then he looked across at the platform where 
he had been in the morning and where the 
accident had taken place. 

" Let me tell you what this was like. It was 
about twenty yards in breadth, and ten deep ; 
but lay irregular, and filled with tumbled rocks. 
It was a little below the level of his eyes, right 
across the gulf ; and, in a straight line, would be 
about fifty or sixty yards away. It lay under the 
roofJTather retired, so that no light from the sky 


fell directly on to it ; it would have been in com- 
plete twilight if it hadn't been for a shaft smaller 
above it, which shot down a funnel of bluish 
light, exactly like a stage-effect. You see, Rever- 
end Fathers, it was very theatrical altogether. 
That might account no doubt " 

Mr. Percival broke off again, smiling. 

" I am always forgetting," he said. " Well, 
we must go back to Murphy. At first he saw 
nothing but the rocks, and the thick red dust, and 
the broken wall behind it. He was very honest, 
and told me that as he looked at it, he remem- 
bered distinctly what the landlady had told us at 
lunch. It was on that little stage that the 
tragedy had happened. 

" Then he became aware that something was 
moving among the rocks, and he became per- 
fectly certain that people were looking at him ; 
but it was too dusky to see very clearly at first. 
Whatever it was, was in the shadows at the back. 
He fixed his eyes on what was moving. Then 
this happened." 

The lawyer stopped again. 

" I will tell you the rest," he said, " in his own 
words, so far as I remember them. 

* I was looking at this moving thing,' he said, 
' which seemed exactly of the red colour of the 


rocks, when it suddenly came out under the funnel 
of light ; and I saw it was a man. He was in a 
rough suit, all iron-stained; with a rusty cap; 
and he had some kind of a pick in his hand. He 
stopped first in the centre of the light, with his 
back turned to me, and stood there, looking. I 
cannot say that I was consciously frightened ; 
I honestly do not know what I thought he was. I 
think that my whole mind was taken up in 
watching him. 

" 'Then he turned round slowly, and I saw his 
face. Then I became aware that if he looked at 
me I should go into hysterics or something of the 
sort ; and I crouched down as low as I could. But 
he didn't look at me; he was attending to something 
else ; and I could see his face quite clearly. He 
had a beard and moustache, rather ragged and 
rusty ; he was rather pale, but not particularly : 
I judged him to be about thirty-five.' Of course," 
went on the lawyer, " Murphy didn't tell it me 
quite as I am telling it to you. He stopped a good 
deal, he drank a sip of tea once or twice, and 
changed his feet about. 

" Well ; he had seen this man's face very clearly ; 
and described it very clearly. 

" It was the expression that struck him most. 

" * It was a rather amused expression,' he said, 


* rather pathetic and rather tender ; and he was 
looking interestedly about at everything at the 
rocks above and beneath : he carried his pick 
easily in the crook of his arm. He looked exactly 
like a man whom I once saw visiting his home 
where he had lived as a child.' (Murphy was very 
particular about that, though I don't believe he 
was right.) * He was smiling a little in his beard, 
and his eyes were half-shut. It was so pathetic 
that I nearly went into hysterics then and there,' 
said Murphy. * I wanted to stand up and ex- 
plain that it was all right, but I knew he knew 
more than I did. I watched him, I should think 
for nearly five minutes, he went to and fro softly 
in the thick dust, looking here and there, some- 
times in the shadow and sometimes out of it. I 
could not have moved for ten thousand pounds ; 
and I could not take my eyes off him. 

" * Then just before the end, I did look away 
from him. I wanted to know if it was all real, 
and I looked at the rocks behind and the open- 
ings. Then I saw that there were other people 
there, at least there were things moving, of the 
colour of the rocks. 

4 1 suppose I made some sound then ; I was 
horribly frightened. At any rate, the man in the 
middle turned right round and faced me, and at 


that I sank down, with the sweat dripping from 
me, flat on my face, with my hands over my eyes. 

" ' I thought of a hundred thousand things : 
of the inn, and you ; and the walk we had had : 
and I prayed well, I suppose I prayed. I wanted 
God to take me right out of this place. I wanted 
the rocks to open and let me through.' " 

Mr. Percival stopped. His voice shook with a 
tiny tremor. He cleared his throat. 

" Well, Reverend Fathers ; Murphy got up at 
last, and looked about him ; and of course there 
was nothing there, but just the rocks and the 
dust, and the sky overhead. Then he came 
away home, the shortest way." 

It was a very abrupt ending ; and a little sigh 
ran round the circle. 

Monsignor struck a match noisily, and kindled 
his pipe again. 

" Thank you very much, sir," he said briskly. 

Mr. Percival cleared his throat again ; but 
before he could speak Father Brent broke in. 

" Now that is just an instance of what I was 
saying, Monsignor, the night we began. May I 
ask if you really believe that those were the souls 
of the miners ? Where's the justice of it ? 
What's the point ? " 

Monsignor glanced at the lawyer. 


" Have you any theory, sir ? " he asked. 

Mr. Percival answered without lifting his eyes. 

" I think so," he said shortly, " but I don't feel 
in the least dogmatic." 

Father Brent looked at him almost indignantly. 
" I should like to hear it," he said, " if you can 
square that " 

" I do not square it," said the lawyer. " Per- 
sonally I do not believe they were spirits at all." 

" Oh ? " 

" No. I do not ; though I do not wish to be 
dogmatic. To my mind it seems far more likely 
that this is an instance of Mr. Hudson's theory 
the American, you know. His idea is that all 
apparitions are no more than the result of violent 
emotions experienced during life. That about 
the pathetic expression is all nonsense, I believe." 

" I don't understand," said Father Brent. 

" Well ; these men, killed by the fall of the roof, 
probably went through a violent emotion. This 
would be heightened in some degree by their 
loneliness and isolation from the world. This 
kind of emotion, Mr. Hudson suggests, has a power 
of saturating material surroundings and which, 
under certain circumstances would once more, like 
a phonograph, give off an image of the agent. 
In this instance, too, the absence of other human 



visitors would give this materialized emotion 
a chance, so to speak, of surviving : there would 
be very few cross-currents to confuse it. And 
finally, Murphy was alone ; his receptive faculties 
would be stimulated by that fact, and all that he 
saw, in my belief, was the psychical wave left by 
these men in dying." 

" Oh ! did you tell him so ? " 
" I did not. Murphy is a violent man." 
I looked up at Monsignor, and saw him nodding 
emphatically to himself. 

My Own Tale 

My Own Tale 

I MUST confess that I was a little taken 
aback, on my last evening before leaving 
for England, when Monsignor Maxwell 
turned on me suddenly at supper, and exclaimed 
aloud that I had not yet contributed a story. 

I protested that I had none ; that I was a 
prosaic person ; that there was some packing to 
be done ; that my business was to write down 
the stories of other people ; that I had my living 
to make and could not be liberal with my slender 
store ; that it was a layman's function to sit at 
holy and learned priests' feet, not to presume to 
inform them on any subject under the sun. 

But it was impossible to resist ; it was pointed 
out to me that I had listened on false pretences 
if I had not intended to do my share, that telling 
a story did not hinder my printing it. And as 
a final argument it was declared that unless I 
occupied the chair that night, all present with- 
drew the leave that had already been given to 
me, to print their stories on my return to England. 



There was nothing therefore to be done ; and 
as I had already considered the possibility of the 
request, I did not occupy an unduly long time in 
pretending to remember what I had to say. 

When I was seated upstairs, and the fire had 
been poked according to the ritual, and the 
matches had gone round, and buckled shoes 
protruded side by side with elastic-ankled boots, 
I began. 

" This is a very unsatisfactory story," I said, 
" because it has no explanation of any kind. It 
is quite unlike Mr. Percival's. You will see that 
even theorizing is useless, when I have come to 
the end. It is simply a series of facts that I have 
to relate ; facts that have no significance except 
one that is supernatural ; but it is utterly out of 
the question even to guess at that significance. 

" It is unsatisfactory, too, for a second reason ; 
and that is, that it is on such very hackneyed 
lines. It is simply one more instance of that very 
dreary class of phenomena, named haunted 
houses ; except that there is no ghost in it. Its 
only claim to interest is, as I have said, the 
complete futility of any attempt to explain it." 

This was rather a pompous exordium, I felt ; 
but I thought it best not to raise expectations 
too high ; and I was therefore deliberately dull. 


" Sixteen years ago from last summer, I was 
in Brittany. I had left school where I had 
laboured two hours a week at French for four 
years ; and gone away in order to learn it in six 
weeks. This I accomplished very tolerably, in 
company with five other boys and an English 
tutor. Our general adventures are not relevant ; 
but toward the end of our stay we went over 
one Sunday from Portrieux in order to see a 
French chiteau about three miles away. 

" It was a really glorious June day, hot and 
fresh and exhilarating ; and we lunched delight- 
fully in the woods with a funny fat little French 
Count and his wife who came with us from the 
hotel. It is impossible to imagine less uncanny 
circumstances or companions. 

" After lunch we all went cheerfully to the 
house, whose chimneys we had seen among the 

" I know nothing about the dates of houses ; 
but the sort of impression I got of this house was 
that it was about three hundred years old ; yet 
it may equally have been four, or two. I did not 
know then ; and do not know now anything 
about it except its name, which I will not tell 
you ; and its owner's name which I will not tell 
you either and and something else that I will 


tell you. We will call the owner, if you please, 
Comte Jean Marie the First. The house is built 
in two courts. The right-hand court through 
which we entered was then used as a farm- 
yard ; and I should think it probable that it is 
still so used. This court was exceedingly untidy. 
There was a large manure heap in the centre ; 
and the servants' quarters to our right looked 
miserably cared for. There was a cart or two 
with shafts turned up, near the sheds that were 
built against the wall opposite the gate ; and 
there was a sleepy old dog with bleared eyes that 
looked at us crossly from his kennel door. 

" Our French friend went across to the ser- 
vants' cottages with his moustache sticking out 
on either side of his face, and presently came 
back with two girls and the keys. There was no 
objection, he exclaimed dramatically, to our seeing 
the house ! 

" The girls went before us, and unlocked the 
iron gate that led to the second court ; and we 
went through after them. 

" Now, we had heard at the hotel that the family 
lived in Paris ; but we were not prepared for the 
dreadful desolation of that inner court. The 
living part of the house was on our left ; and 
what had once been a lawn to our right ; but the 


house was discoloured and weather-stained ; the 
green paint of the closed shutters and door was 
cracked and blistered ; and the lawn resembled 
a wilderness ; the grass was long and rank ; there 
were rose trees trailing along the edge and 
across the path ; and a sun dial on the lawn 
reminded me strangely of a drunken man petrified 
in the middle of a stagger. All this of course 
was what was to be expected in an adventure of 
this kind. It would do for a Christmas number. 
\ " But it was not our business to criticize ; and 
after a moment or two, we followed the girls who 
had unlocked the front door and were waiting for 
us to enter. 

" One of them had gone before to open the 

" It was not a large house, in spite of its name ; 
and we had soon looked through the lower rooms 
of it. They, too, were what you would expect : 
the floors were beeswaxed ; there were tables 
and chairs of a tolerable antiquity ; a little 
damask on the walls, and so on. But what 
astonished us was the fact that none of the furni- 
ture was covered up, or even moved aside ; and 
the dust lay, I should say, half-an-inch thick on 
every horizontal surface. I heard the Frenchman 
crying on his God in an undertone as is the 


custom of Gauls" (I bowed a little to Father 
Meuron) " and finally he burst out with a 
question as to why the rooms were in this state. 

" The girl looked at him stolidly. She was a 
stout, red-faced girl. 

' It is by the Count's orders/ she said. 

" ' And does the Count not come here ? ' he 

" ' No, sir/ 

" Then we all went upstairs. One of the girls 
had preceded us again and was waiting with her 
hand on the door to usher us in. 

" ' See here the room, the most splendid/ she 
said ; and threw the door open. 

" It was certainly the room most splendid. It 
was a great bed-chamber, hung with tapestry ; 
there were some excellent chairs with carved 
legs ; a fine gold framed mirror tilted forward 
over the carved mantel-piece ; and, above all, 
and standing out from the wall opposite the 
window was a great four-posted bed, with an 
elaborately carved head to it, and heavy curtains 
hanging from the canopy. 

" But what surprised us more than anything 
that we had yet seen, was the sight of the bed. 
Except for the dust that lay on it, it might have 
been slept in the night before. There were 


actually damask sheets upon it, thrown back, 
and two pillows all grey with dust. These 
were not arranged but tumbled about, as a bed 
is in the morning before it is made. 

" As I was looking at this, I heard a boy cry 
out from the washing-stand : 

' Why it has had water in it/ he said. 

" This did not sound exceptional for a basin, 
but we all crowded round to look ; and it was 
perfectly true ; there was a grey film around the 
interior of it ; and when he had disturbed it (as a 
boy would) with his finger, we could see the 
flowered china beneath. The line came two-thirds 
of the way up the sides of the basin. It must 
have been partly filled with water a long while 
ago, which gradually evaporated, leaving its mark 
in the dust that must have collected there week 
after week. 

" The Frenchman lost his patience at that. 

' My sacred something ! " he said, ' why is 
the room like this ? ' 

" The same girl who had answered him before, 

answered him again in the same words. She 

was standing by the mantel-piece watching us. 

' It is the Count's orders/ she said stolidly. 

" ' It is by the Count's orders that the bed is 
not made ? ' snapped the man. 


' Yes, sir,' said the girl simply. 

" Well, that did not content the Frenchman. 
He exhibited a couple of francs and began to 

:< This is the story that he got out of her. She 
told it quite simply. 

" The last time that Count Jean Marie had 
come to the place, it had been for his honeymoon. 
He had come down from Paris with his bride. 
They had dined together downstairs, very happily 
and gaily ; and had slept in the room in which 
we were at this moment. A message had been 
sent out for the carriage early next morning; 
and the couple had driven away with their trunks, 
leaving the servants behind. They had not 
returned, but a message had come from Paris 
that the house was to be closed. It appeared 
that the servants who had been left behind had 
had orders that nothing was to be tidied ; even 
the bed was not to be made ; the rooms were to 
be locked up and left as they were. 

" The Frenchman had hardly been able to 
restrain himself as he heard this unconvincing 
story ; though his wife shook him by the shoulders 
at each violent gesture that he made, and at the 
end he had put a torrent of questions. 

" ' Were they frightened then ? ' 


" ' I do not know, sir.' 

" ' I mean the bride and bridegroom, fool ! ' 

" ' I do not know, sir.' 

" ' Sacred name and and why do you not 

" ' I have never seen any of them, sir.' 

" ' Not seen them ! Why you said just now ' 

" ' Yes, sir ; but I was not born then. It was 
thirty years ago.' 

" I do not think I have ever seen people so 
bewildered as we all were. This was entirely 
unexpected. The Frenchman's jaw dropped ; 
he licked his lips once or twice, and turned away. 
We all stood perfectly still a moment, and then 
we went out." 

I indulged myself with a pause just here. I 
was enjoying myself more than I thought I should. 
I had not told the story for some while ; and had 
forgotten what a good one it was. Besides, it 
had the advantage of being perfectly true. Then 
I went on again, with a pleased consciousness of 
faces turned to me and black-ended cigarettes. 

" I must tell you this," I said" I was relieved 
to get out of the room. It is sixteen years ago 
now ; and I may have embroidered on my own 
sensations ; but my impression is that I had been 
just a little uncomfortable even before the girl's 


story. I don't think that I felt that there was 
any presence there, or anything of that kind. It 
was rather the opposite ; it was the feeling of an 
extraordinary emptiness." 

" Like a Catholic cathedral in Protestant 
hands/' put in a voice. 

I nodded at the zealous, convert-making Father 

" It was very like that," I said, " and had, too, 
the same kind of pathos and terror that one feels 
in the presence of a child's dead body. It is 
unnaturally empty, and yet significant ; and one 
does not quite know what it signifies." 
I paused again. 

" Well, Reverend Fathers ; that is the first 
Act. We went back to Portrieux : we made 
inquiries and got no answer. All shrugged their 
shoulders and said that they did not know. 

" There were no tales of the bride's hair turning 
white in the night, or of any curse or ghost or 
noises or lights. It was just as I have told you. 
Then we went back to England ; and the curtain 
came down. 

" Now, generally, such curtains have no resur- 
rection. I suppose we have all had fifty experi- 
ences of first Acts ; and we do not know to this 
day whether the whole play is a comedy or a 


tragedy ; or even whether the play has been 
written at all." 

" Do not be modern and allusive, Mr. Benson," 
said Monsignor. 

" I beg your pardon, Monsignor ; I will not. 
I forgot myself. Well, here is the second Act. 
There are only two ; and this is a much shorter 

" Nine years later I was in Paris ; staying in 
the Rue Picot with some Americans. A French 
friend of theirs was to be married to a man ; and 
I went to the wedding at the Madeleine. It was 
well, it was like all other weddings at the 
Madeleine. No description can be adequate to 
the appearance of the officiating clergyman and 
the altar and the bridesmaids and the French 
gentlemen with polished boots and butterfly ties, 
and the conversation, and the gaiety, and the 
general impression of a confectioner's shop and 
a milliner's and a salon and a holy church. I 
observed the bride and bridegroom and forgot 
their names for the twentieth time, and exchanged 
some remarks in the sacristy with a leader of 
society who looked like a dissipated priest ; with 
my eyes starting out of my head in my anxiety 
not to commit a solecisme or a barbarisms. And 
then we went home again. 


" On the way home we discussed the honeymoon. 
The pair were going down to a country-house 
in Brittany. I inquired the name of it ; 
and of course it was the chateau I had visited 
nine years before. It had been lent them by 
Count Jean Marie the Second. The gentleman 
resided in England, I heard, in order to escape 
the conscription ; he was a connexion of the 
bride's ; and was about thirty years of age. 

" Well, of course I was interested ; and made 
inquiries and related my adventure. The Ameri- 
cans were mildly interested too, but not excited. 
Thirty-nine years is ancient history to that ener- 
getic nation." (I bowed to Father Jenks, before 
I remembered that he was a Canadian ; and then 
pretending that I had not I went on quickly, 
and missed a dramatic opportunity.) " But 
two days afterwards they were excited. One of 
the girls came into dejeuner ; and said that she 
had met the bride and bridegroom dining together 
in the Bois. They had seemed perfectly well, 
and had saluted her politely. It seemed that 
they had. come back to Paris after one night 
at the chateau, exactly as another bride and 
bridegroom had done thirty-nine years before. 

" Before I finish, let me sum up the situation. 

" In neither case was there apparently any 


shocking incident ; and yet something had been 
experienced that broke up plans and sent away 
immediately from a charming house and country 
two pairs of persons who had deliberately formed 
the intention of living there for a while. In both 
cases the persons in question had come back to 

" I need hardly say that I managed to call with 
my friends upon the bride and bridegroom ; and, 
at the risk of being impertinent, asked the bride 
point-blank why they had changed their plans 
and come back to town. 

" She looked at me without a trace of horror in 
her eyes, and smiled a little. 

" ' It was triste,' she said, ' a little tristc. We 
thought we would come away ; we desired crowds. ' * ' 

I paused again. 

" ' We desired crowds/ " I repeated. " You 
remember, Reverend Fathers, that I had experi- 
enced a sense of loneliness even with my friends 
during five minutes spent in that upstairs room. 
I can only suppose that if I had remained longer 
I should have experienced such a further degree 
of that sensation that I should have felt exactly 
as those two pairs of brides and bridegrooms felt ; 
and have come away immediately. I might 
even, if I had been in authority, have given orders 



that nothing was to be touched except my own 

" I do not understand that/' said Father Brent, 
looking puzzled. 

" Nor do I altogether/' I answered, " but I 
think I perceive it to be a fact for all that. One 
might feel that one was an intruder ; that one 
had meddled with something that desired to be 
left alone, and that one had better not meddle 
further in any kind of way." 

" I suppose you went down there again," 
observed Monsignor Maxwell. 

" I did, a fortnight afterwards. There was 
only one girl left ; the other was married and 
gone away. She did not remember me ; it was 
nine years ago ; and she was a little redder in the 
face and a little more stolid. 

" The lawn had been clipped and mown, but 
was beginning to grow rank again. Then I went 
upstairs with her. The room was comparatively 
clean ; there was water in the basin ; and clean 
sheets on the bed ; but there was just a little film 
of dust lying on everything. I pretended I knew 
nothing and asked questions ; and I was told exactly 
the same story as I had heard nine years before ; 
only this time the date was only a fortnight ago. 

" When she had finished, she added : 


" ' It happened so once before, sir : before I 
was born.' 

" ' Do you understand it ? ' I said. 

' No, sir ; the house is a little triste, perhaps. 
Do you think so, sir ? ' 

" I said that perhaps it was. Then I gave her 
two francs and came away. 

" That is all, Reverend Fathers." 

There was silence for a minute. Then Padre 
Bianchi made what I consider a tactless remark. 

" Bah ! that does not terrify me," he said. 

" ' Terrify ' is certainly not the word," remarked 
Monsignor Maxwell. 

" I am not quite sure about that," ended 
Father Brent. 

The bell rang for night-prayers. 

" Sum up, Father Rector," said Monsignor 
without moving. " You have heard all the stories, 
and Mr. Benson is going to-morrow." 

The old priest smiled as he stood up ; and was 
silent for a moment, looking at us all. 

" I can only sum up like this with the sentiments 
with which Monsignor began," he said. ' The 
longer I live and the more I hear and see, the 
greater I feel my ignorance to be. I heard a 


man say the other day that Catholics were 
the only genuine agnostics alive ; and that he 
respected them for it. They knew some things 
that others did not ; but they did not pretend 
to affirm or to deny that of which they had no 
possibility of judging. Is that what you meant 
me to say, Monsignor ? " 

Monsignor nodded meditatively. 

" I think that is a sound conclusion/' he said. 
" I would even go further, and say that the stories 
that we have heard confirm me, at any rate, in 
what I said at first. Some of them, if the 
narrators will forgive me, are so utterly pointless 
and inexplicable when regarded from the human 
point of view, that all they seem to prove is that 
there must be another. Of course we all believe 
that, but most of us don't act as if we did. . . . 
It is like looking on at the backs of a crowd ; 
they are attending to something else, not to us 
at all. Just occasionally we catch the eye of 
some one who turns round ; but that is all." 

He drew up his feet suddenly, and leaned 
forward. Then he went on in a graver voice than 
it was his custom to use. 

" Or, shall we say, each of us is like a new-born 
child in a great house ? In one sense, we are 
attended to a great deal. All kinds of mysteries 


are performed of which we are, at least, partly, 
the object ; and what we do know of them, we 
do know, but that is very little indeed. And 
meanwhile there are dark corridors along which 
footsteps pass ; we catch the sound of voices, and 
the glimmer of lights " 

He broke off, and turned to me. 

" It is understood, then, Mr. Benson, that if you 
print these stories, you will add that not one of 
us commits himself to belief in any of them 
except, I suppose, each in his own ? " 

" I will mention it," I said. 

" Perhaps you might say that we do not even 
commit ourselves to our own. You can say what 
you like about yours, of course." 

" I will mention that, too," I said, " and I will 
class myself with the rest. The agnostic position 
is certainly the soundest in all matters outside 
the Deposit of Faith. ... We all stand, then, 
exactly where we did at the beginning ? " 

" Certainly, I do," said Padre Bianchi. 

" We all do," said a number of voices. 

Then we went to night-prayers, together, for 
the last time. 


Pnnttd by Sir luuu Pitman & Sons, Ltd., Rath. 

(Catalogue O] 




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Other Volumes in preparation. 

The " All Red" Series 

Each volume is in demy 8vo, cloth gilt, with 16 full -page plate 
illustrations, maps, etc., 7s. 6d. net. 

RINGROSE WISE (formerly Attorney-General of New South Wales). 
Second Edition Revised. 

" The ' All Red ' Series should become known as the Well- Read 
Series within a short space of time. Nobody is better qualified to 
write of Australia than the late Attorney-General of New South 
Wales, who knows the country intimately and writes of it with 
enthusiasm. It is one of the best accounts of the Island Continent 
that has yet been published. We desire to give a hearty welcome 
to this series." Globe. 

DOUGLAS, Bt., formerly Under-Secretary for Defence, New Zealand, 
and previously a Lieutenant, R.N. 

" Those who have failed to find romance in the history of the 
British Empire should read The Dominion of New Zealand. Sir 
Arthur Douglas contrives to present in the 444 pages of his book an 
admirable account of life in New Zealand and an impartial summary 
of her development up to the present time. It is a most alluring 
picture that one conjures up after reading it." Standard. 

the Office of the High Commissioner for Canada. 

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. an excellent plain account of Canada, one of the best and most 
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THE BRITISH WEST INDIES. Their History, Resources, and Pro- 
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THE UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA. With chapters on Rhodesia and the 
Native Territories of the High Commission. By W. BASIL WORSFOUD, 
Sometime Editor of the " Johannesburg Star." 

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have been impossible to a less skilled and well-informed annalist. 
Into 500 pages he has compressed the main outlines of the history 
and geography of that much-troubled dominion, the form of its 
new Constitution, its industrial developments, and social and 
political outlook. The volume is an encyclopedia of its subject." 
Yorkshire Post. 

Formerly Lieutenant- Governor of Eastern Bengal. 

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Indian conditions and politics. Sir Bampfylde Fuller presents a 
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its government, and its future prospects." Times. 

"No western mind more practically versed in and sympathetic 
with the Indian spirit could be found than his, and his long adminis- 
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balanced volume." Times of India. 

WINTER LIFE IN SWITZERLAND. Its Sports and Health Cures. 
By Mrs. M. L. and WINIFRED M. A. BROOKE. New Edition. 
In crown 8vo, cloth, 290 pp., with coloured frontispiece and many 
full-page plates, maps, and other illustrations, 3s. 6d. net. 

This book is so full of description and useful information on 
all points as to be an indispensable possession to anyone intending 
a winter visit to Switzerland.